Leni Riefenstahl

Director, Actor, Screenwriter
An undeniably brilliant filmmaker who broke new ground with pioneering techniques, Leni Riefenstahl nonetheless lived in infamy for her friendship with and adulation of Adolf Hitler during the reign of Nazi Germany. In ... Read more »
Born: 08/22/1902 in Berlin, DE

Filmography

Actor (12)

Hitler's Women 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

The Night of the Film-Makers 1994 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Tiefland 1953 (Movie)

Marta (Actor)

Das Blaue Licht 1932 (Movie)

(Actor)

S.O.S. Eisberg 1932 (Movie)

(Actor)

Strume Uber Dem Montblanc 1930 (Movie)

(Actor)

Die Weisse Holle Vom Piz Palu 1929 (Movie)

(Actor)

Das Schicksal Derer Von Habsburg 1928 (Movie)

(Actor)

Der Grosse Sprung 1927 (Movie)

(Actor)

Der Heilige Berg 1926 (Movie)

(Actor)
Director (7)

Impressions Under Water 2001 (Movie)

(Director)

Tiefland 1953 (Movie)

(Director)

Olympia 1938 (Movie)

(Director)

Tag Der Freiheit - Unsere Wehrmacht 1935 (Movie)

(Director)

Triumph of the Will 1935 (Movie)

(Director)

Das Blaue Licht 1932 (Movie)

(Director)

Sieg Des Glaubens 1932 (Movie)

(Director)
Producer (2)

Olympia 1938 (Movie)

(Producer)

Triumph of the Will 1935 (Movie)

(Producer)
Writer (2)

Tiefland 1953 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Das Blaue Licht 1932 (Movie)

(Screenplay)
Camera, Film, & Tape (1)

Impressions Under Water 2001 (Movie)

cinematography (Cinematographer)
Editor (1)

Olympia 1938 (Movie)

(Editor)

Biography

An undeniably brilliant filmmaker who broke new ground with pioneering techniques, Leni Riefenstahl nonetheless lived in infamy for her friendship with and adulation of Adolf Hitler during the reign of Nazi Germany. In fact, her extraordinary talent proved to be her downfall; she used her genius to create the breathtaking, but frightening "Triumph of the Will" (1935), a chronicle of Hitler's famed Nuremberg rally that portrayed the Fuehrer as a god come to Earth to save the German people. Though the film was hailed as masterpiece, Riefenstahl was unable to live down her reputation for being a Nazi sympathizer - a label that dogged her for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, she kept Hitler in the background for her other documentary masterpiece, "Olympia" (1938), which chronicled the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. While she depicted the German athletes as somewhat godlike, keeping to Hitler's ideal of Aryan superiority, Riefenstahl did focus much of her attention on American hero, Jesse Owens, an African-American who bested Germany's top athletes to take home four gold medals. After the war, Riefenstahl spent time under arrest and faced several inquiries, but was ultimately allowed her freedom. But that freedom was limited, as her reputation prevented her from making another film. Riefenstahl turned to photography instead and found personal reconciliation through taking pictures of the Nuba tribe in Africa. Though she came to terms with her past on a personal level, Riefenstahl lived her public life in association with the Nazi party until the end.

Relationships

Berta Riefenstahl

Mother

Peter Jacob

Husband
major in German army married in 1944 divorced in 1946

Alfred Riefenstahl

Father
owner of a plumbing engineering firm

Heinz Riefenstahl

Brother
born in 1906 died at age 38 serving in the German army at the Russian Front in WWII

Luis Trenker Actor

Companion
co-starred opposite Riefenstahl in two of Arnold Fanck's "mountain films", "Peaks of Destiny" (also known as "The Holy Mountain") and "The Big Jump" their affair ended badly, and the two did not part as friends in her autobiograohy published after Trenker's death, she made a number of unflattering allegations against him

EDUCATION

Jutta Klamt School for Dance

Berlin

Mary Wigmann School for Dance

studied Russian ballet

Milestones

2002

Released first film in almost 50 years, "Underwater Impressions"; a 45-minute compilation of footage shot during scuba dives made between 1974 and 2000; release timed to coincide with her 100th birthday

2000

Was injured in a plane crash in the Sudan; broke several ribs; was on visit attempting to reconnect with Nuba tribespeople she had met on previous visits

1997

First exhibit of her photography in postwar Germany (Hamburg); pointedly, there were no stills from "Triumph of the Will"

1995

Appeared as herself in "The Night of the Film-makers"

1993

Subject of Ray Muller's documentary, "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl"

1974

Honored at Telluride (Colorado) Film Festival; festival picketed by anti-Nazi groups

1974

Learned scuba diving; began taking a series of underwater photographs

1972

Commissioned by the London <i>Times</i> to photograph the Munich Olympics

1962

Returned to Africa (the southern Sudan) to film and photograph the Mesakin Nuba tribe, living among them and recording their daily lives, their ceremonies and their athletic contests

1956

Traveled to Africa to begin work on "Black Cargo", a documentary on the modern slave trade made on behalf of the London Anti-Slave Society; project came to an end after her serious injury in a car accident in Kenya; film ruined by incorrect laboratory pro

1955

Hollywood jury voted "Olympia" one of the ten finest motion pictures of all time

1954

Completed editing on and released "Tiefland" (shot between 1940 and 1944), her last film for almost 50 years

1952

In response to a published picture of her watching the massacre of Polish civilians by German troops in 1939, requested an inquiry in a West Berlin denazification court; witnesses supported her claim that she had tried to end the atrocity at some risk to

1948

Trimmed-down (to an hour-and-a-half), propaganda-free version of "Olympia" released as "King of the Olympics"

1944

Detained in American and French internment camps, undergoing denazification

1940

Refused Goebbels' invitation to make propaganda films and began work on a non-musical version of Eugen d'Albert's opera "Tiefland"

1939

Worked briefly as a war correspondent; followed advancing German army into Poland with a camera team

1938

"Olympia", using footage of the 1936 Olympics released on Hitler's birthday (April 20)

1938

Made first trip to USA to promote "Olympia"; film did not find a US distributor

1936

Filmed Olympic Games in Berlin

1935

Made short documentary, "Day of Freedom", to celebrate the Wehrmacht (German army)

1934

Asked by Hitler to film Nuremberg Nazi party rally, resulting in "Triumph of the Will" (1935)

1933

Appointed by Hitler as "film expert to the National Socialist Party"

1933

Last film with Fanck, "S.O.S. Iceberg"

1932

Film directing debut with "The Blue Light" (co-wrote with Bela Balazs)

1932

Met Adolf Hitler

1931

Founded own production company, Leni Riefenstahl Studio Films

1930

First talkie, Fanck's "Avalanche"

1929

Most popular mountain film with Fanck, "The White Hell of Piz Palu"

1927

Reteamed with Fanck and Trenker for "The Great Leap"

1926

Signed contract with Arnold Fanck, playing a dancer turned climber in "Peaks of Destiny/The Holy Mountain"; co-starred opposite Luis Trenker

1924

Knee injury ended her dancing career

Raised in Berlin

Ostracized and denied a chance to continue filmmaking, turned to still photography

Attracted attention of Max Reinhardt, who sent her on a tour of Europe in a program of modern dances of her own creation

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