Leni Riefenstahl Award Presented to Kathryn Bigelow

From the Committee for Sanitizing Crimes Against Humanity in FIlm

ON FEBRUARY 2, 2013, the Committee for Sanitizing Crimes Against Humanity in Film announced the winner of the Leni Riefenstahl Award: director Kathryn Bigelow for her film Zero Dark Thirty, and her body of work and role in impacting public opinion.

The award is inspired by the role and work of the German film director and actress Leni Riefenstahl, whose film Triumph of the Will celebrated and legitimized the 1934 Nazi Party congress in Nuremberg.

That congress introduced laws that would encode anti-Semitism in Germany, setting the stage for the Holocaust, and was a launching point for Germany’s aggressive imperialist wars. Riefenstahl’s film helped convince some in Germany’s influential arts and culture community to acquiesce in Hitler’s crimes with passive complicity and active support.

Riefenstahl is acclaimed by many prestigious commentators and critics, who while conditioning their praise with disclaimers about not endorsing the Nazis and genocide, insist that those flaws should not color judgment of her work, and call her “the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century” and an “acclaimed pioneer of film and photographic techniques.”

As the Committee’s charter emphasizes, “Leni Riefenstahl did nothing less than make Hitler seem honorable and inspiring to sections of the German public who at first dismissed him as a fascist mad man.”

While that is a high bar from which to judge, the Committee felt strongly that Bigelow’s work rises to that standard. In granting the award, the Committee noted “It is an amazing accomplishment for a film to sanitize the CIA, humanize it, and portray those who carry out torture as heroes with whom the viewer would identify and empathize.” And the Committee expressed its appreciation that the Hollywood community, with a small number of disturbing
exceptions, has embraced Zero Dark Thirty.

In recognizing Bigelow for the Leni Riefenstahl award, the committee noted the societal impact of Zero Dark Thirty in making acceptable (including by portraying as “complicated”) the use of torture against “America’s enemies,” in winning liberal audiences to sympathize with criminal monsters who carry out torture, and in rebranding the CIA’s image of cold-blooded imperialist assassins into “dedicated men and women” in the
“intelligence community” who are keeping Americans safe.

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Main Torture Leni Riefenstahl Award Presented to Kathryn Bigelow