Olympia der Völker or 'Olympia: Festival of Nations' (1938)
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Olympia is a 1938 German documentary sports film written, directed and produced by Leni Riefenstahl, which documented 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 an 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 cuts, extreme close-ups and placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers. The techniques employed are almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political context. Nevertheless, it 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 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay was devised for the Games by the secretary general of the Organizing Committee, Dr. Carl Diem. Riefenstahl staged the torch relay for the film, with competitive events of the Games.
Although restricted to six camera positions on the stadium field, Riefenstahl set up cameras in as many other places as she could, including in the grandstands. She attached automatic cameras to balloons, including instructions to return the film to Leni Riefenstahl, and she also placed automatic cameras in boats during practice runs. Amateur photography was used to supplement that of the professionals along the course of races. Perhaps the greatest innovation seen in Olympia was the use of an underwater camera. The camera followed divers through the air and, as soon as they hit the water, the cameraman dived down with them, all the while changing focus and aperture.
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