Propaganda and the Olympics

Teaser: the memorable male diving sequence.  From 0:41s to 2:40s.  Is this fascism or art?

Special event with documentary-maker and propaganda enthusiast Alexandre Hamel.

Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda and documentary masterpiece Olympia will be used to understand how Hitler’s regime and the most controversial filmmaker of history, Leni Riefenstahl, used the Olympic Games in a propaganda campaign that spiraled Germany and the world in the Second World War.

The only way to understand the propaganda of the present is to study that of the past.

Tuesday, July 31st 2012, 8h00pm
Monday, August 6th 2012,  8.00pm From now, the tickets will be available at the door only.  There will be seats available at the door.

Whirled Cinema, 259 Hardess Street (see map, lower)
Brixton Tube or Loughborough Junction train station
Whirled cinema is an exclusive cinema brilliantly set up in an industrial arch.  This hidden jewel and its adjoining bar and terrasse will be exceptionally opened to the public for this event.

8 pounds in advance.  Click the buttons above.
10 pounds at the door.  There will be tickets available at the door.
Tickets can be purchased via PayPal with the buttons next to the dates, higher on this page.  Your tickets will be available for pick-up at the venue, on the night of the event.
Simply click the button and choose your quantity on the PayPal purchase page.
Once on the PayPal system, click “Don’t have a PayPal account” at the bottom right to pay with a credit card.  Or use your PayPal account.

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On Coldharbour Lane, if you’re coming from Brixton, turn right on Herne Hill Road.  After walking about 2 minutes, you will walk under a railway bridge.  Immediately after, turn right on Hardess Street.  The cinema is down that little street, in an arch under this railway.

Interesting facts about Olympia,
Leni Riefenstahl and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

First, the freaky century-long life of Leni Riefenstahl, summed up in 10 minutes.

According to many film critics, Olympia stays the most beautiful sport film ever made.  It features vintage and perfect images of sports as they were practiced in 1936.

Leni Riefenstahl started her artistic career as a dancer.  Her first appearance in a film was bare-breasted, in a racy propaganda piece using an hygiene theme to show nudity and express anti-Semitic ideas.  She claimed not even knowing about this film until her death.  I’ll have some images…

Riefenstahl claimed Hitler, Goebbels and Mussolini fell to her charms and tried to kiss her.  She is infamous for having seduced her way to the top of the German film industry by charming influential bankers, producers, directors and distributors.  One of her conquests slashed his wrists on her doorstep and ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

The propaganda ministry of Hitler’s regime financed the making of Olympia in a shady undercover deal.  Riefenstahl claimed the film was financed privately until her death.  The budget allowed by Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, was of 1.5 million Reichsmarks.  This was 3 times as much as the normal budget for a major studio film shot in those years, in Germany.  Riefenstahl was practically given an unlimited budget by the Nazi government.

Jesse Owens is the Afro-American athlete who became one of the first symbols of the civil rights movement by winning 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.  During the games, he almost fell in a pit dug by Riefenstahl’s at the end of the 100 meters track.  The olympic officials had asked for the dangerous pit to be filled up.  In a fit of tears, Riefenstahl appealed directly to Hitler to have the permission to use the pit anyway.  In Olympia, with a slow-motion, it is possible to see Owen dodging the pit dangerously while Riefenstahl films one of her trade-mark low-angle shot.

Underwater cinematography was invented and used for the very first time by one of Riefenstahl’s cameramen to shoot the astonishing diving sequence of Olympia.

During the shooting of Olympia, Riefenstahl had an affair with the American athlete Glenn Morris.  According to Riefenstahl’s memoirs, immediately after getting off the podium where he received the gold medal for the decathlon event, he grabbed Riefenstahl, tore her blouse and kissed her breast in front of 80 000 spectators.  A few years later, he became a movie star as Tarzan in a famous Hollywood film.

Olympia, with a version showing a speech by Hitler, won 3 gold medals at the Paris World Fair of 1937.

Walt Disney invited Leni Riefenstahl to his studios in 1938.  He showed her Snow White.  He wanted to see Olympia but claimed he was afraid of a boycott of his films if the news of this private screening would reach the public through his unionized projectionists.

Leni Riefenstahl died aged 101 years old.  She survived shooting on the front during the Second World War, the Nuremberg trial and an helicopter crash in Sudan at age 98.

Hundreds of similar facts like those could be listed.  Leni Riefenstahl is one of the most controversial, talented and colorful film artist of cinema history.

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