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Movie plot

Leni is injured, which puts her dancing career in jeopardy. She sees a poster of Mountain of Destiny (1924), and is inspired to go into movie making. After seeing many films and meeting the director of Mountain of Destiny (Arnold Fanck), Leni convinced him of her acting skills. Having Fanck as a mentor for multiple films, she was a quick learner in acting and film editing.

Still of Mountain of destiny (1924)

Leni’s first self-produced film (Das Blaue Licht, 1932) is met with mixed reviews at release. Left-wing press weren’t impressed, but the right-wing did like it. Adolf Hitler was a fan of the film as well, and arranged a meeting with her.

During this meeting, Riefenstahl is offered to film Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933). This was a propaganda film about one of the Nuremburg Rallies. A year later, she made another film, despite vowing never to make another propaganda film. This is considered to be the best propaganda film in the Nazis’ eyes.

Promotional poster of Das Blaue Licht (1932)

Leni’s first self-produced film (Das Blaue Licht, 1932) is met with mixed reviews at release. Left-wing press weren’t impressed, but the right-wing did like it. Adolf Hitler was a fan of the film as well, and arranged a meeting with her.

During this meeting, Riefenstahl is offered to film Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933). This was a propaganda film about one of the Nuremburg Rallies. A year later, she made another film, despite vowing never to make another propaganda film. This is considered to be the best propaganda film in the Nazis’ eyes.

In 1936, Hitler invites Riefenstahl to film Olympia. Riefenstahl is told that it is funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). She meets Avery Brundage, who is determined to let athletes of all religions and races compete. Riefenstahl’s direct boss, Joseph Goebbels, is the one person Brundage needs to convince. Leni serves as the translator between the two. After the meeting that is seen during Race, Goebbels is furious about not getting the deal he wanted from Brundage.

Brundage, Riefenstahl, Goebbels

From left to right: Brundage, Riefenstahl and Goebbels

During the Olympic Games, Leni starts setting up camera’s and the famous carts on tracks that were first used during these games. While filming Olympia, she receives more and more criticism about filming everyone, of all nations and races, while the government wants her to focus on the German athletes. During filming, she defends with the argument that the funding is form the IOC, so she insists on making an objective view of the Olympic Games. Reluctantly, the Nazi officials agree to let her make the film she wants. During filming, she wants to improve the shots she made, so she asks some gold-winning athletes to do their thing again, now filming from a different angle or applying slow motion in editing. As seen in Race, Jesse Owens is one of these athletes.

Filming Olympia

Riefenstahl filming Olympia

During the Olympic Games, Leni starts setting up camera’s and the famous carts on tracks that were first used during these games. While filming Olympia, she receives more and more criticism about filming everyone, of all nations and races, while the government wants her to focus on the German athletes. During filming, she defends with the argument that the funding is form the IOC, so she insists on making an objective view of the Olympic Games. Reluctantly, the Nazi officials agree to let her make the film she wants. During filming, she wants to improve the shots she made, so she asks some gold-winning athletes to do their thing again, now filming from a different angle or applying slow motion in editing. As seen in Race, Jesse Owens is one of these athletes.

The most prominent part of the film is the preparation and the filming of Olympia. This starts at the moment Brundage enters Berlin and discusses with Goebbels up to the last shot that is filmed during the 1936 Olympics. Right before the end credits, her life during and after the war will very shortly be described, accompanied by many of the photos that survived to this day.