Leni Riefenstahl and the Aesthetics of Fascism with Dr. Finn Ballard

Leni Riefenstahl and the Aesthetics of Fascism with Dr. Finn Ballard


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Over the course of 16 blistering August days in 1936, at Berlin's brand-new Olympic Stadium, the director Leni Riefenstahl would shoot 300,000 meters of sporting footage. 'Olympia,' her two-hour epic, would mark neither the first nor the last time Riefenstahl produced art to the Nazis' specifications. In this seminar, we will explore the most curious career of Leni Riefenstahl, the most prominent woman in Nazi Germany, and someone who had the plentiful opportunity in her 101 years of life to master the art of selective narration and self-exculpation. 

We will discuss the nuances of Riefenstahl's own political leanings, her technical accomplishments, her contribution to the galvanization of Nazi Germany, and her status as one of (though not the only) female filmmakers working in the 1930s and 40s. Beyond that, we will investigate the question of Fascist aesthetics more generally: the cinema, visual arts, uniforms, and even the calisthenics of the collective 'national body.'  And lastly, we will discuss the hallmarks of the visual style of National Socialism and the response that Fascist aesthetics arouse in their viewership: then and today.

Led by an expert on Third Reich history, Dr. Finn Ballard, this interactive seminar will shed light on a visual style still deployed today. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with increased confidence in their capacity to assess the political meanings behind certain forms of aesthetic expression.

Finn grew up in Northern Ireland before moving to England to study and later teach in the department of Film and Literature at the University of Warwick. He completed his doctoral study on German folklore and popular cinema in 2012, and has published extensively in the fields of Film Studies and Gender Studies. Since 2008, he has been living and guiding in Berlin. He now works as a historical advisor for television and film productions set in Berlin, particularly during the Weimar era or Third Reich. He is a journalist for the 'Siegessauele', Europe's foremost Queer magazine, and organises events at Berlin's English-language bookstore 'Another Country'.

Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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