March is women’s history month (in the US).
I’m talking about some of the women who’ve inspired me.
Here’s an interesting thing that happens when we talk about such-and-such history month. We usually look at all the awesome, wonderful things people belonging to such-and-such group have done. But that’s not history, is it? When we study history, we have to study the wonderful with the horrible, the inspiring with the distasteful. Not all of the people who ever lived were…you know…*nice*.
Today’s woman is Leni Riefenstahl (you can learn more about here here). She was a German film director and producer in the 1930s and 1940s. She wrote, produced, and/or directed many of the propaganda films that idolized and buoyed Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. I don’t want to get in to the really interesting discussion of why she may have chosen the subject material she did, but I do want to say that she was good. She was *really good*. Artistically, her films have received critical acclaim. Often, when you watch something and there are clips of Nazi propaganda, it is Riefenstahl’s work.
Why is this impressive?
Because film is, even now – some will say ESPECIALLY now – an industry funded by, directed by, produced by, written by, acted by, and critiqued by men. For a woman, especially in the first half of the 20th century, to have the kind of acclaim, opportunity, and renown that Leni Riefenstahl had, is unheard of. Even now. No other woman has come close to her success in the film industry. Of course, following World War II, she was arrested because of her personal relationship with der Führer, and her film career was destroyed.
Having said that, she directed her last film at the age of 100.
Riefenstahl inspires me because she is, to date, probably the most successful female director and producer in the film industry. And it really picks my arse that in 2014, an actor who talks about the fact that movies made by women for women can actually be successful makes headline news. I don’t follow things like Hollywood and the Oscars, and most of the big-name movies that hit the screen I don’t bother watching. But I heard this morning that one of the actors had said something to this effect in her acceptance speech [cenobyte goes looking on the internets and finds this] I was a little furious.
IT’S 2014, PEOPLE. CAN WE JUST DO AWAY WITH THE GENDER-RELATED BEE ESS?
…what’s that? Oh. Oh I see. No, apparently we can’t, because reasons.
Anyway. Leni Riefenstahl. Brilliant artist, exceptional filmmaker. Nazi Propagandist. Important Woman.