From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Olympia is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The movie was produced in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker (Festival of Peoples) and Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty). It was the first documentary film on the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were groundbreaking at the time, were employed, including unusual camera angles, smash-cut editing techniques, extreme close-ups, setting the railway tracks on the stadium to shoot the crowd and the like. The techniques employed are almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political content.
There has been much discussion of whether this film should be classified as a Nazi propaganda film, unlike her earlier Triumph of the Will, which is widely thought of as such. While the entire 1936 Olympics has been derided as the "Hitler Olympics" and was unquestionably designed primarily to showcase the alleged accomplishments of the Third Reich, and to this extent any film accurately documenting the proceedings would come off as something of a propaganda film, Riefenstahl's defenders have pointed to her close-up shot of the expression on Hitler's face when Jesse Owens, an African-American, won a gold medal, as showing a tacit dissent from Nazi racial supremacy doctrines. Other non-Aryan winners are featured as well.
Olympia set the precedent for future films documenting and glorifying the Olympic Games, particularly the Summer Games. The "Olympic Torch Run", now revered as a seemingly-ancient tradition, was devised by Riefenstahl for these games and this film in conjunction with the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem. In 2005, Time.com named it one of the 100 best films of the last 80 years.
Olympia was made in three versions, German, French and English. There are slight differences between each version, extending to which portions were included and their sequence within the entire film.
It appeared to be Riefenstahl's habit to re-edit the film upon re-release, so that there are multiple versions of each language version of the film.
For example, as originally released, the famous Diving Sequence (the penultimate sequence of the entire film) ran about 4 minutes. Riefenstahl subsequently reduced it by about 50 seconds. (The entire sequence could be seen in prints of the film circulated by the collector Raymond Rohauer.)