Olympia – Fest Der Völker (1938)

(Festival of the People)

Directed by: Leni Riefenstahl
Produced by: Leni Riefenstahl
Written by: Leni Riefenstahl
Music by: Herbert Windt
Walter Gronostay
Cinematography: Paul Holzki
Edited by: Leni Riefenstahl
Production company: Olympia-Film
Distributed by: Tobis, Müller, Taurus (video)
Release dates: 20 April 1938 (Germany)
Running time: 126 minutes
Country: Germany
Language: German

Olympia is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. The film was released in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty). It was the first documentary feature film of the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were ground-breaking at the time, were employed —including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like. The techniques employed are almost universally admired.  The film appears on many lists of the greatest films of all-time, including Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Movies.”

Olympia set the precedent for future films documenting and glorifying the Olympic Games, particularly the Summer Games. The “Olympic Torch Run” was devised by the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem for these 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Riefenstahl later staged the torch relay for this film, as with competitive events of the Games.


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