Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Olympia is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were groundbreaking at the time, were employed, including unusual camera angles, smash-cut editing techniques, extreme close-ups and the like. The techniques employed are almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political content.
There has been much discussion of whether this film should be classified as a Nazi propaganda film, unlike her earlier Triumph of the Will, which is unquestionably such. While the entire 1936 Olympics has been derided as the "Hitler Olympics" and was unquestionably designed primarily to showcase the alleged accomplishments of the Third Reich, and to this extent any film accurately documenting the proceedings would come off as something of a propaganda film, Riefenstahl's defenders have pointed to her close-up shot of the expression on Hitler's face when Jesse Owens, an African-American, won a gold medal, as showing a tacit dissent from Nazi racial supremacy doctrines. Other non-Aryan winners are featured as well. Were it not for Riefenstahl's well-documented connection to Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi figures, the film would probably be far less controversial.
Olympia set the precedent for future films documenting and glorifying the Olympic Games, particularly the Summer Games. The "Olympic Torch Run", now revered as a seemingly-ancient tradition, was devised by Riefenstahl for these games and this film in conjunction with the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem.
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