Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News reported that an Academy Award "in memoriam" tribute of the late filmmaker and Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl ruffled a few feathers. (My rewrite of the story for AP is here.)

Should an artist connected to one of humanity's darkest periods be recognized for her talent?

My friend David raised a good point, with which I agree entirely. He writes:

"I too saw Leni Riefenstahl's name come up on the Oscar broadcast and wondered about whether there would be some kind of backlash. To me, it seems appropriate she was mentioned, though. 'Triumph Des Willens' may have been Nazi propaganda, but it was and still is a highly influential film, and not just because of the controversy surrounding it. Riefenstahl was a talented director and editor who made up a whole new visual idom for film and continued to make documentaries and publish photographs for decades after the Nazis were overthrown. Besides, her mention at the Oscars was a tiny one, and ignoring the fact that she died is not going to bring healing
to anyone. It just buries her memory and her part in history.

"What I think is *really* interesting about all this is that I haven't heard any kind of outcry about including Elia Kazan in the same list. He was one of the Hollywood directors who cooperated McCarthy's House Unamerican Activities in the '50s by testifying against 'Communists' in Hollywood,
and no hissed when his name came up. He even got a lifetime achievement award from the Academy a few years back, though there was some controversy about that. If you ask me, he's as much or more of a villain than Reifenstahl. She at least has the excuse that she lived in a brutal dictatorship that only allowed her one outlet for her creativity. Kazan lived in America which, even during the stifling McCarthy years, was immeasurably more free than Hitler's Germany."

Thanks, David.


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