Research

Narratology

Race is a historic documentary set in the 1930’s. It is about Jesse Owens’ path to gold in the 1936 Olympic Games, set in Nazi Germany. The film is showed from a third person-view, mostly following Jesse. There are some sidesteps into side plots from Avery Brundage and Leni Riefenstahl. The plot itself is very accurate to real history. Most of the absolute facts that are stated in the film happened in reality. From Jesse working on the cotton fields as a six-year-old to the friendship with Luz Long. The director only took liberties when writing the actual dialogues, because they were obviously never transcripted beforehand. This determination to strictly keep to facts is also criticised in multiple reviews (Metacritic, 2016).

There were some inaccuracies though, mainly in the lights of racism. Ohio was a state that was relatively progressive in light of segregation laws. “The Ohio Public Accommodations Law of 1884 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race in all public buildings. These facilities included government buildings, bars, hotels, theaters, and other structures as well.” (Ohio History Connection, 2020). For instance, the part where black people had to sit in the back of the bus was no issue in Ohio. Admittedly, other states were still struggling with worse racism. The Montgomery bus boycott (the boycott kickstarted by Rosa Parks) happened in 1955 in Alabama (Stanford University, 2020).

Overall, the film is a very readerly text, as the whole story actually happened in history, there is little to no room for imagination for all the viewers. Gaps the film itself does not come back to, are easily researchable.

  • Nazi Germany is filled with Swastikas. They can be seen as semiotics, symbolising the ideal of Nazi supremacy.
  • All racism referred to in the film has a broad and extensive history. Larry asks why Jesse went to Ohio instead of one of the ‘more progressive states’, referring to the fact that Ohio had a long way to go in completely abolishing slavery. Other states were thus further in this process.
  • Leni Riefenstahl is shown to be filming. During the 1936 Olympic Games, Leni Riefenstahl was filming Olympia. This was planned to be a propaganda film for the Nazis, but turned out to be a film about the wonderous capabilities of the human body in sports (Mackenzie, 2003).
  • Luz Long tells Jesse that a woman came up to his room to congratulate him with his win. She was trying to seduce Luz, because she was told to have a baby with him. This is a direct reference to the Lebensborn-project. At one point, Nazi officials decided to ‘breed’ Übermenschen, for the survival of the purity of the race (Crossland, 2006).
  • Clothing throughout the film is accurately portrayed to fit the 1930’s era.

Semiotics

Hermeneutics

  • All text about time, date and locations throughout the film is capitalised with a golden colour. Wear and tear is visible on closer inspection. This symbolises the prestige of the Olympic Games (the golden letters, all in caps), but also criticises this version of it (the impurity of the letters refers to the exclusive nature of this instalment of the Games, because not all athletes are welcome). (Cultural)
  • Jesse and Larry often mirror each other’s behaviour. At their first conversation, Larry says that records don’t mean anything. Medals are the only things that last. When Jesse breaks his first record, Larry is very excited. But Jesse subsequently says that records can be broken, but winning medals is an everlasting accomplishment. A similar scenario plays when Jesse talks about his daughter. Larry replies that he did not know about this daughter, to which Jesse says that Larry never asked. In Berlin, Larry talks about his daughter. Then Jesse says he never knew he had one, and Larry said that Jesse never asked. (Character)
  • Weather plays a crucial part in the story. Stormy, rainy weather is almost always accompanied by bad performances or other reasons to have negative emotions. However, most of the winning and positive parts of the movie happen on a bright, sunny afternoon. (Environmental)
  • German officials are not the authoritarian men (or women) one would expect them to be. Also, Germany itself is not portrayed as a powerful nation. The only thing you see them do is losing the sporting events and cowardly overpower ordinary Jewish citizens with military personnel. (Cultural? Character? Political)
  • Any other nation is excluded from this film, which makes it a direct battle between the US and Germany, while the Olympic Games obviously include countries from all around the world. (Cultural? Character? Political)
  • There is a power struggle between Leni Riefenstahl and Joseph Goebbels concerning the film Leni is producing. Goebbels wants it to exclusively be a propaganda film, while Riefenstahl prefers more sensation. (Character)

The premise of this campaign will be about Leni Riefenstahl’s rise to Germany’s preferred filmmaker. Her story is not focused on at all, but she does play a prominent role in the 1936 Olympics. Her relation with Goebbels has always been a complicated one, so it would be interesting to take a deep dive into this part of the story.

The target group would slightly deviate from the one that the film defined itself. This story would not be about sports, but about the political and personal development of Leni. However, the time and setting will still be the same. Sensitive topics like the Holocaust will be a part of this campaign, so the target group will still be people who can bear these topics. Race was a very ‘in-your-face’ film regarding the Holocaust and racism, so people interested in Race might still be interested in the new adaptation. Only the sports-oriented viewers might find this less interesting.

Any product placement or sponsorships from NGOs is deemed inappropriate, as the characters that would be featured have a very negative reputation today. It could however be sponsored by governments who wish to educate, as this would be as objective and accurate as possible, just like the film was.

Conclusion

References

Crossland, D. (2006, November 7). Lebensborn Children Break Silence. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from Spiegel International: https://www.spiegel.de/international/nazi-program-to-breed-master-race-lebensborn-children-break-silence-a-446978.html

Mackenzie, M. (2003). From Athens to Berlin: The 1936 Olympics and Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia. Critical Inquiry, 302-336.

Metacritic. (2016). Race Reviews. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from Metacritic: https://www.metacritic.com/movie/race

Ohio History Connection. (2020). Ohio Public Accommodations Law of 1884. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from Ohio History Central: https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Ohio_Public_Accommodations_Law_of_1884#:~:text=In%201884%2C%20the%20State%20of,and%20other%20structures%20as%20well.

Stanford University. (2020). Montgomery Bus Boycott. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from Stanford – The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/montgomery-bus-boycott