Leni Riefenstahl goes to Africa

by zunguzungu

From her memoir:

One night, I read Hemingway’s new book, The Green Hills of Africa, which had only just been published. I read until dawn, by which time Hemingway’s lifelong fascination with Africa had taken hold of me. I was enthralled by this world, hitherto so alien to me, and I could almost hear the words Hemingway wrote in his diary during his first night in Africa: “When I woke up at night, I lay there listening, already longing to come back to Africa.” Was the thrilling atmosphere he described merely the vision of a poet? Could one really breath more freely and happily in Africa? My mind soon gravitated more and more towards that unknown continent, which I resolved to get to know…

Crazily, Riefenstahl lived until 2003 (101!), so she actually supervised the putting together of this web site of her photographs, and wrote the text for it in 2001. An interesting document that way; note that the Masai are called “braves,” over and over again, and that “these pictures may be the last attempt to catch something of Africa’s soul before it will lose its innocence to the technical age.” It’s fascinating to see a relic of the past trying to maintain her grip on a world that’s moved way past her. And this, her account of the postwar realization that being a Nazi filmmaker was, well, not a great thing to have done, is sort of marvelous:

“However, at the end of the war this film destroyed Leni Riefenstahl’s career, for now it had no longer been recognized as a piece of art but been condemned as a National Socialist propaganda film.”