Leni Riefenstahl

Filmmaker / World War II Figure

Born: 22 August 1902
Died: 8 September 2003 (Natural causes)
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Best known as:

Filmmaker who documented Hitler's Germany

Name at birth: Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl

Trained as an dancer, Leni Riefenstahl was an up-and-coming actress in German movies of the 1920s before becoming a film director. She impressed Adolf Hitler so much he put her in charge of filming the 1934 Nazi rally at Nuremberg, as well as the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The two films, Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938) are landmark documentaries, and Riefenstahl is considered one of the great innovators in moving pictures. But she was also accused of being a great propagandist for the Nazis, and it ruined her film career. After World War II she escaped being charged with war crimes (and she was never a Nazi party member), but she remained a controversial figure. Later in her career Riefenstahl turned to still and underwater photography; her 2002 film Impressions Under Water was compiled from footage she took while scuba diving. She lived to be 101, dying in September 2003.

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