Leni Riefenstahl
(08/22/1902 - 09/08/2003)

Leni Riefenstahl was a German film director, dancer and actress widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmaker.

Riefenstahl was born in the working class suburb of Wedding in Berlin. She began her career as a self-styled and well-known interpretive dancer. After injuring her knee while performing in Prague she saw a nature film about mountains and became fascinated with the possibilities of film. She went to the Alps to meet Arnold Fanck, the film's director, hoping to secure the lead in his next project. Instead, Riefenstahl found an actor who had starred in Fanck's films who wrote the director about her. Riefenstahl went on to star in many of Fanck's Mountain films as an athletic and adventurous young woman with a suggestive appeal. Riefenstahl's had a prolific career as an actor in silent films. She was popular with the German public and highly regarded by directors. Her last acting role before becoming a director was in the 1933 film SOS Eisberg (U.S. title SOS Iceberg).

Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens, a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl's prominence in the Third Reich along with her personal friendships with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels thwarted her film career following Germany's defeat in World War II, after which she was arrested but never convicted of war crimes.

Riefenstahl is widely noted in film histories for developing new techniques in film. The propaganda value of her documentary films made during the 1930s repels most commentators but many cite the aesthetics as outstanding. Riefenstahl later published her still photography of the Nuba tribes in Africa and made films of marine life.

Available Films

White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929)

Triumph of the Will (1935)