Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl

The choice was somewhat controversial, but 39 years ago in 1974, the year the Telluride Film Festival opened for business, Leni Riefenstahl (1902 – 2003), was among the original tributees. (The other two were Gloria Swanson and Francis Ford Coppola.)

Telluride Film Festival founders, Bill and Stella Pence and Tom Luddy, conceived of the tributees, now a SHOW tradition, as a way of honoring artists whose bona fides place them at the top of the pyramid in the world of film. And Riefenstahl is known to have directed some of the most widely admired and innovative documentaries ever made – though some appeared to  link her to the Third Reich. In response to her detractors, Riefenstahl consistently claimed she was an apolitical artist who knew nothing of the Holocaust, denied any complicity with the criminal regime, and was never a member of the Nazi party. (To learn more, read Steven Bach’s definitive biography, “Leni.”)

Riefenstahl’s photographic career exploded with her award-winning documentation of her stay with the Nuba tribes of the Sudan and publication of these intimate photos all over the world. A selection of 12 images, hand-picked and signed by the artist when she turned 100,( the year before she died), are on display at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, 130 East Colorado, now through September 13. Through these photographs, we get to glimpse into the multi-talented artist-adventurer’s many lives: dancer, actor, diver, photographer, and filmmaker.

A footnote: The Telluride Film Festival celebrates another 100th birthday this year, that of artist-animator Chuck Jones, creator of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck among other animated icons.

Watch Clint Viebrock’s video to preview the Riefenstahl show.

For further information, contact the gallery through or call 970-728-3300.

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