Although she had directed perhaps the most powerful and horrifying propaganda film ever made in her celebration of Hitler and the Nazi Party in Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl's epic record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, one of the best and most controversial films of all time, somehow managed to transcend politics and racial tensions, and this despite the fact that the prologue seems to be a conspicuous and highly aestheticized celebration of Aryan beauty, elegance, grace and strength.

This unanticipated message of equality is partly due to the fact that in the first part of the film, and to Hitler's great surprise, black American runner Jessie Owens emerges as the undisputed star. In the final analysis, the film should probably be seen as an unapologetic across-the-board tribute to all the participants.

As you may or may not know, many of the techniques used in Olympia were groundbreaking at the time and set the stage and standards in cinematography for decades to come. If you want a taste, the music video for Rammstein's cover of Depeche Mode's Stripped is based on some of the magnificent and mesmerizing footage of Riefenstahl's film.

Here is the first part, the Festival of Peoples:

And the second part, the Festival of Beauty:

They make everything look so easy!
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