The Politics of Hyper-Visibility in Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light

Hennefeld, Margaret (2013) The Politics of Hyper-Visibility in Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsacta/3804. In: Researching Women in Silent Cinema: New Findings and Perspectives. A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria ; Tralli, Lucia. Bologna: Dipartimento delle Arti - DAR, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, pp. 96-105. ISBN 9788898010103. In: Women and Screen Cultures, (1). A cura di: Dall'Asta, Monica ; Duckett, Victoria. ISSN 2283-6462.
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While the inadequate archival preservation of films by early women directors such as Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber and Elvira Notari has led to their virtual erasure from dominant film history narratives, German film director Leni Riefenstahl’s work and biography have suffered from inverse but revealingly parallel problems: a plenitude of memory and historicization. An excess of discussion regarding Riefenstahl’s implication in National Socialism, and her personal relationship with Hitler continues to haunt analysis of Riefenstahl’s oeuvre. However, this conflation of Riefenstahl’s personal politics with her filmmaking puts more at stake than the public memory of her as a film director. In auteurist compilations such as Andrew Sarris’ “Interviews with Film Directors,” Riefenstahl stands alone as the only woman filmmaker sandwiched between thirty-nine male directors. As Riefenstahl’s interview with Sarris reveals, cinematic memory of Riefenstahl’s earlier German mountain films (such as The Blue Light) has been largely overshadowed by the visibility of her later fascistic texts (Olympia and The Triumph of the Will). In this paper, I suggest as an alternative or complementary effort to feminist excavations of invisible women’s film histories, a more extensive probing of the female filmmaking histories that mainstream publics already recognize. Perhaps the hyper-visible spectacle made of Riefenstahl’s canon contains its own forgotten histories that we can use to rethink the careers of early women directors.

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Hennefeld, Margaret
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28 Sep 2013 15:08
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13 Mar 2015 14:49

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