Graham, Cooper C. Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia. Filmmakers Series, No. 13. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1986.
Cooper C. Graham’s text on Olympia is one of the most in-depth and thoughtful on the subject. In its concluding chapter, it provides an insightful and articulate investigation of the film as a piece of National Socialist propaganda. Graham’s main argument lies in the claim that Olympia can qualify as propaganda without being a politically motivated project if it encompasses what he terms “sociological propaganda.” He notes that such propaganda does not have to be intentionally constructed to permeate certain ideologies or beliefs, and in this sense Olympia does promote views in support of the Nazi party. Graham argues that in the 1930s, the Nazi party was attempting to mold the image of Germany as a peaceful and liberal nation, in direct contrast to its true aspirations, and saw the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a unique opportunity to further this public relations campaign. The party took measures to ensure the competing nations were treated well in the press to create an aura of fairness, and in the same manner Olympia fulfills this goal with its apparently evenhanded depiction of the games. Hence Olympia did not need to promote racist Nazi ideals or glorify Aryan athletes to be propagandistic; in fact, not doing so made the film seem more credible and effective. The film is propaganda because of the deceptive image it gives to Germany, that of a happy, benevolent, and just society, an image the Nazi party was eager to promote.
Graham raises several other points relevant to the question of the film as propaganda. He notes the Nazi party financed and was heavily involved in the production of the film. The shots of Hitler also humanized him by portraying him as a friendly, average sports fan. Additionally, he explains that the existence of the film itself served as a symbol of German technological and intellectual achievement. While the film’s most significant element of propaganda lay in its apparent fairness, Graham contends that some portions of the film were subtly skewed towards a pro-German stance through dramatic shots that emphasized German athletes and victories, especially in the German version of the film.