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Palgrave Macmillan


ISBN 9781844574704
Publication Date March 2012
Formats Paperback Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher British Film Institute
Series BFI Film Classics

Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938) is one of the most controversial films ever made. Capitalising on the success of Triumph of the Will (1935), her propaganda film for the Nazi Party, Riefenstahl secured Hitler's approval for her grandiose plans to film the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The result was a work as notorious for its politics as celebrated for its aesthetic power.

This revised edition includes new material on Riefenstahl's film-making career before Olympia and her close relationship with Hitler. Taylor Downing also discusses newly-available evidence on the background to the film's production that conclusively proves that the film was directly commissioned by Hitler and funded through Goebbels's Ministry of Propaganda and not, as Riefenstahl later claimed, commissioned independently from the Nazi state by the Olympic authorities. In writing this edition, Taylor Downing has been given access to a magnificent new restoration of the original version of the film by the International Olympic Committee.

TAYLOR DOWNING is a television producer who co-founded Flashback Television in 1982 and has run it as a successful independent production company for many years. He has produced well over 200 documentaries on a wide range of subjects over the last twenty years, including many award-winning history programmes and a series about the Olympic movement. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, Spies in the Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence during World War II (2011) and Churchill's War Lab: Code Breakers, Boffins and Innovators: The Mavericks Churchill Led to Victory (2010). He regularly writes and lectures on television and history

The Olympic on Film 1896-1932
Riefenstahl Before 'Olympia'
Production and Finance
Setting Up
The Prologue and Opening Ceremony
Track and Field
Festival of Beauty


"...it's hard to think of what more a reader would want without straying too far from the film in hand. This is as thorough and detailed an account of a classic as you could hope for." - The Digital Fix '...this is a timely updated edition of filmmaker Downing's excellent study of Leni Riefenstahl's controversial documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.' - P.D. Smith, The Guardian
'Taylor Downing's passion for history, his knowledge of film and its pedigree and his empathy for the Olympic Games are all apparent in this very clear, concise and very readable account of Leni Reifenstahl's classic film...I can't recommend this outstanding piece of historical analysis and thoughtful judgement of a film-maker enough.' - Stewart Binns, Archive Zone
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