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Leni Riefenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL

January 19, 2017, 7:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Seeking Our Story, Women In Media, and the School of Cinematic Arts, present director Leni Riefenstahl's most influential work as a cautionary lesson on the power of media and art in politics.

Triumph of the Will (1935)

Written, Directed, Produced and Edited by Leni Riefenstahl
Commissioned by Adolph Hitler

6:00 P.M. Networking | 7:00 P.M. Film Presentation

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Not rated. Running time: 114 minutes.

A moderated panel will precede the film.

Panelists will include:
  • Dr. Wolf Gruner, Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research
  • Dr. Michael Renov, Vice Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • Dr. Steven Ross, Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life.
Those interested in Networking should e-mail:

About Leni Riefenstahl

A dancer and movie actress by trade, Leni Riefenstahl directed her first film, The Blue Light in 1932 at the age of 30. Soon after, she received a commission from the Nazi Party for propaganda film The Victory of Faith (1933) followed by Triumph of the Will (1935). Though claimed as cinema verite, Reifenstahl carefully choreographed a crew of over one-hundred and seventy technicians throughout the city of Nuremberg for Triumph of the Will and rehearsed sequences as many as fifty times before the anticipated rally, staged largely for her cameras.

Riefenstahl commented that in this commission, Hitler "wanted a film which would move, appeal to, impress an audience which was not necessarily interested in politics." Through visual repetition and an appeal to emotion over reason, Riefenstahl created a masterwork of propaganda that announced Germany's rise from political instability to world superpower. As Ruth Starkman wrote for the University of California Press' Film Quarterly, Riefenstahl "presides as the 'mother' of modern media" (Vol. 51 No. 2.) The Economist claimed upon Riefenstahl's death that Triumph of the Will, "sealed her reputation as the greatest female film-maker of the 20th century" (Hand Held History, Sep 11th 2003).

Riefenstahl also created Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces (1935) depicting a mock battle scene at the seventh Nazi Party rally as well as Olympia Part 1: Festival of the Nations and Olympia Part 2: Festival of Beauty both documenting the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin and pioneering techniques used in modern sports photography. Her adaptation of Tiefland aka Lowlands (1954) was her last film before being taken prisoner by the Allies at the close of World War II. After her release, Riefenstahl published extensive photographic documentation on the Nuba peoples of Sudan in the 1970s. At age 100, before her death a year later, Riefenstahl created Impressions of the Deep (2002) documenting the remaining coral reefs.


About the Panelists


Wolf Gruner holds the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies, is Professor of History at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles since 2008 and is the Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research since 2014.

He is a specialist in the history of the Holocaust and in comparative genocide studies. He received his PhD in History in 1994 from the Technical University Berlin as well as his Habilitation in 2006. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, Yad Vashem Jerusalem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Women’s Christian University Tokyo, and the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin, and the Desmond E. Lee Visiting Professor for Global Awareness at Webster University in St. Louis.

He is the author of nine books on the Holocaust, among them Jewish Forced Labor under the Nazis. Economic Needs and Nazi Racial Aims, with Cambridge University Press (paperback 2008), as well as over 60 academic articles and book chapters. He also coedited two books, one of them, the translated updated book The Greater German Reich and the Jews. Nazi Persecution Policies in the Annexed Territories 1935-1945 was published in 2015 with Berghahn Books. Its original German edition received the award for most outstanding German studies in humanities and social sciences in 2012. In 2015, Gruner published on the discrimination against the indigenous population in post-colonial Bolivia the book Parias de la Patria. El mito de la liberación de los indígenas en la República de Bolivia 1825-1890, in Spanish with Plural Editores, Bolivia. Gruner’s most recent book is on the Persecution of the Jews in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and their responses 1933-45 (Wallstein, Goettingen, Germany, 2016).

He is a member of the International Academic Advisory board of the Center for the Research on the Holocaust in Germany at Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, Jerusalem (since 2012), a member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Genocide Research (since 2010). He served as a member of the Yad Vashem 2014 International research Book prize committee. For the 2016 biannual international conference on the Holocaust “Lessons and Legacies”, he served as the co-chair of the academic program.  


Michael Renov is the Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary, Professor of Cinema & Media Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  He is the author of Hollywood's Wartime Woman: Representation and Ideology (1988) and The Subject of Documentary (2004), editor of Theorizing Documentary (1993), and co-editor of Resolutions: Contemporary Video Practices (1996), Collecting Visible Evidence (1999), The SAGE Handbook of Film Studies (2008), Cinema’s Alchemist: The Films of Peter Forgacs (2011) and From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood (2016).


Steven Ross is Professor of History and Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. His current book, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America will be published by Bloomsbury Press this fall.

About Seeking Our Story and Women In Media

Seeking Our Story and Women In Media have partnered for the past two years in presenting historic films directed by women and networking opportunities for rising filmmakers. Learn more about their communities and and

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website.

Networking will begin in the lobby at 6:00 P.M. Doors to the theater will open at 6:30 P.M. All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $12.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago