Friday, September 17, 2010

The rebirth of Jacob "Jack" Garfein


by Alejandra Espasande Bouza













I first met Jack Garfein on May 10 of 1988 at Madrid's Filmoteca Española, originally loated at C/ Princesa 1,  where I had the opportunity to watch "Something Wild" (1957) and "The Strange One" (1961).  Ever since, I have never forgotten the strong impression his films left on me. His films are a unique contribution to American cinema, and his personal experiences, a lesson of endurance and hope.

“Fate has always been unkind to Jack Garfein, but providence has always come to his rescue.” Henry Miller

On May 11, 1946 a fifteen-year-old boy named Jacob Garfein, one of the first holocaust child survivors to arrive in New York, attended a Mother’s Day celebration in honor of Mrs. David M. Levy, Chairman and benefactor of the National Women’s Division of the United Jewish Appeal Drive. The New York Times note read: “Jacob, a red-cheeked, red-headed boy who lost his mother, father and sister in German concentration camps - two of them in a crematorium- and who recalls how he had to help bury fifteen to eighteen corpses a day in Belsen, gave the flowers in a simple tribute of thanks from the Jewish children who are still alive in Europe.”

Before the war, Jacob, best known as actor, stage director and filmmaker, Jack Garfein, had experienced a peaceful childhood in his native Czechoslovakia where he lived with his mother Blanka Spiegel, his father, Zionist leader Herman Garfein, and his little sister Hadasa...

To continue reading click the Jewish Journal version.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Allegro non molto

by Alejandra Espasande Bouza


This video is my take at conveying the importance of preserving moving images without resorting to employing voice over. The images speak for themselves with music by Antonio Vivaldi. It features archival moving images from the following films courtesy of EYE Film Institute Netherlands:

Glas-Industrie in Leerdam (1918)

Koninklijke Stearine Kaarsenfabriek Gouda (1918)

Staatsmijnen in Limburg (1919)

Liefdesintriges (1920)

Rotterdam binnenstad (1920)

Nederland vooruit! (1921)

Van steenkool tot gas (1924)

Rotterdam en z'n havens (1925)

Naar buiten! (1925)

Met de Fokker VII en de eerste
luchtmail naar Marseille (1926)

Fabriek in vogelvlucht (1927)

Een doordeweekse dag (1932)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fundacion Carmen Toscano: The role of a family-run archive in preserving a nation’s visual memory

by Alejandra Espasande Bouza















Michael Friend and Octavio Moreno Toscano. Los Angeles, July 2, 2010. Photo by Fabricio Espasande.

In 2010 the nation of Mexico will commemorate two centuries of its independence from Spain, and a century of its revolution. In consequence, the government has established, at a Federal and regional level, different funding sources that are being, and will be, invested in the organization of cultural projects related to these historic dates. 
Among the projects considered for funding if any should receive extra consideration it is the preservation of the films held at the Fundacion Toscano Film Archive, and the restoration of the documentary film “Memories of a Mexican (1950)” directed by Carmen Toscano from footage archived by her father, filmmaker Salvador Toscano Barragan. 


This essay documents the film preservation efforts of filmmaker Salvador Toscano. It will shed life in a family’s work toward the preservation of moving images that have been, and are being, lost due to the decay of time, but most importantly, the lack of the necessary funding to safeguard one of the most important historic moving image archives, the Fundacion Toscano film Archive. 
 


The birth of Mexican Cinema: The arrival of Le Cinématographe Lumière 


Gabriel Veyre (1871-1936)

French man Gabriel Veyre arrived in Latin America as a representative of the Lumière brothers bringing with him Le Cinématographe. He arrived in Mexico in 1896 where he was soon filming President Porfirio Diaz, a leader who early on understood the power of the new invention. Veyre operated both as exhibitor of the Lumière Films through presentations he organized throughout Mexico, and as filmmaker, shooting scenes of Mexico that he was soon to showcase throughout the many cities that he was to visit during his life. 
That same year Veyre was invited to the Chapultepec palace to present a screening of his films, those from the Lumière catalog as well as those he had filmed in Mexico. As illustrated by the film program, the showcase took place on Thursday, August 27 of 1896, and it was presented as a screening by the Cinematógrafo Lumière and dedicated by C.F. Bon Bernard and Gabriel Veyre, on behalf of August and Louis Lumière, to the President of the Mexican Republic, General Porfirio Diaz. The film that opened the showcase was composed of scenes shot of President Porfirio by Gabriel Veyre, and titled “The President of the Republic back horse riding in the Chapultepec forest” (1896). 
 
 


In 1897 a young engineer named Salvador Toscano Barragan purchased one of the Lumière cameras and changed the course of his professional life. The arrival of the camera marked the end of a promising engineering career that led the young and inexperienced Toscano into the adventure of filming and exhibiting films throughout Mexico. This enterprise gained him a place in the history books where he was coined “The father of Mexican Cinema.” 


Salvador Toscano (1872-1947)
SALVADOR TOSCANO BARRAGAN was born in 1872 in Zapotlan, (Mexico). In 1896 he opened a movie theater named “Cinematografo Lumière,” located in the 17th block of Jesus Maria Street, at close distance from the National Palace. Through a number of business associations he went on to showcase film programs in cities throughout Mexico and the US. Toscano spent many weeks on the road where he developed an ongoing correspondence with his mother to whom he shared the headaches and pleasures of the life of an itinerant film exhibitor. Fortunately, these letters were preserved and published by the Toscano Film Archive in collaboration with the Filmoteca UNAM. 



Excerpts of letters from Salvador Toscano to his mother

In the following letter, dated August 26, 1900, Toscano shares details about his U.S. film exhibition itinerary. From Galveston he was to visit Saint Louis, Chicago and New York: “The Cinematografo [Lumiere Film Camera] is not such a good investment around here, nonetheless it makes enough to keep going. The Americans had never seen such a thing. They are quiet taken with the “vistas” [films], but still, the people here do not spend as much as in Mexico.”

The letters apart from documenting the tenderness of a mother and son relationship, give insight into the business relationship the two shared. Many of the letters would be indications to Refugio detailing what to do regarding sending an “express” film print to an exhibitor that was awaiting for it, on to how to run the finances of the business. In spite of the gradual success of the film business, Refugio pressed her son to make use of his studies and return to engineering. This request Salvador addressed in a letter: “Regarding your desires that I return to engineering, I give you my assurance; but not until I cancel all my debts.”

Documentary films VS. Fiction films

Toscano’s decision to find a more profitable profession was due to the fact that by 1912 “the competition of movie theaters was fierce to the point that entry fees were ridiculously reduced.” This accounted for his selling of the Salon Pathe, one of the many locations he had acquired to run film exhibitions.

That same year Salvador began working on one of many engineering projects that would curtail any future opportunities to return, full time, to the business of filmmaking and exhibition. In due time documentary cinema would lose favor with the audiences that found new perspectives in the production of fiction films, and their accompanying film stars. As explained by historian Angel Miquel: “non-fiction films experienced a transformation. In 1917 several film companies began the production of fiction films, in consequence the documentary film would fall back (…) Some documentary filmmakers, such as Rosas and Ocañas, would go into the production of fiction films, but many others, like the Alva brothers, Echaniz, Toscano, Abitia, etc., were not interested or incapable to jump into the making of fiction films. The future of documentary cinema would fall into the productions made by private newsreel firms, or Government funded projects.”

The decision was not welcomed by Carlos Noriega Hope, one of Mexico’s most noteworthy of film critics. The following quote by Noriega Hope was rescued by historian Angel Miquel in his Toscano biography: “Unfortunately, destiny took him away from the field that he was to pioneer and today, instead of being a rich film magnate, his days and evenings are spent in front of a desk in the business of paperwork. Maybe at times, Salvador Toscano in remembrance of his past life comes to feel nostalgia and a certain load for his current life.”

Fortunately, in his spare time, Salvador did return, though never full time, to several projects related to filming, and the editing of already shot footage for the making of documentaries. During this time Salvador began the meticulous process of preserving his film collection, made up by his films and those that he purchased or were donated by his film colleagues. He had assembled a collection of great materials with the intention of producing a documentary of the Mexican revolution. Unfortunately, Toscano would not live long enough to accomplish it.

Memories of a Mexican: from newsreels to National Film Treasure 


 
 
 
 

Carmen Toscano (1910-1988)

One can only imagine an aging Toscano contemplating the vastness of his archive with the uncertainty of who would continue its preservation. The answer was delivered by his daughter Carmen Toscano who picked on her father’s footsteps following his death 1947. The passing of Toscano placed the responsibility of securing the survival of the film archive to Carmen and the whole Toscano family. The documentary film about the Mexican Revolution would be made by his daughter.

Memories of a Mexican (1950) was Carmen Toscano’s greatest accomplishment and tribute to her father’s legacy in filmmaking and film preservation. For the making of this film Carmen classified, organized and selected over fifty thousand feet of footage shot from 1897 to 1929. In order for the footage to adapt to sound speed Carmen arranged to make prints with a number of duplicated frames to match the 24 fps. Also, during her father’s lifetime, from 1942 to 1945, Carmen brought footage to Los Angeles' film labs in order to process optical work.

She succeeded in assembling her father’s materials into a documentary film that was guided by a fictional narration, based on a script she wrote after the film was edited, and a very detailed sound design that captured in 110 minutes the scope of Salvador Toscano’s film treasure. The historic value of Memories of a Mexican (1950) was recognized by the Mexican Government when it was awarded the unusual honor of being named a “National Film Treasure.”

The documentary film features moving images of the protagonists of the Mexican revolution: President Porfirio Diaz, Francisco I. Madero, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon, amongst others. The film also showcases rare glimpses of Mexican historic moments that include the “Celebrations of Mexico’s Independence” (1908), the “Tragic ten days” (1913), “The invasion of Veracruz” (1914), and moments in the life of everyday people.

The film premiered in 1950 at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Theater with an audience that included the likes of painters Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, philosopher Jose Vasconcelos and actor Pedro Infante. In 1954 it was exhibited at the Cannes film festival and in many other venues. In 2008 a print of Memories of a Mexican was featured at the first International Preservation Film Festival in Prague and at Los Angeles' Million Dollar Theater.


This clip was edited by Fabricio Espasande

Fundacion Toscano

For some time the Cineteca Nacional held the Toscano film archive without taking any steps for its preservation other than its storage. Due to this lack of action, the family took measures and recouped the archive. Luckily, this was done on time to avoid the fire that was to account for the loss of lives and that of thousands of films. 
As stated by Octavio Moreno Toscano, son of Carmen, and grandson of Salvador: “When the Cineteca Nacional exploded the Toscano archive was saved because the government did not want it. It was saved by not being there.”

The Toscano Foundation was officially established in 1992 with the purpose of preserving the Salvador Toscano Historic Film Archive and the film archives donated by Jesus H. Abitia, Alberto Licerio, Ezequiel Colin Garces, Concepcion Tafoya, and archives documenting the Mexican Presidency. As a result the Carmen Toscano Foundation has established itself as a film archive specialized in preserving newsreels and documentary films related to Mexican history. The Foundation, in collaboration with the Cineteca, has also instated the tradition of recognizing the legacy of prominent Mexicans in the arts by establishing the “Salvador Toscano Medal,” the first of which was given in 1983 to Joselito and Roberto Rodriguez, inventors of the Rodriguez Sound System.

Funding

As a nonprofit film archive, one of the main sources of funding has come from donations but also from the Foundation’s commercial department in charge of licensing footage and the production of CD’s/DVD’s/books that help meet part of the expenses. In 1996 the archive launched a DVD of “Memories of a Mexican that included the extras options of English subtitles and, as part of its menu, a timeline of the Mexican revolution helpful to those less familiar with the historic events and personalities presented in the documentary. Due to ravages of film piracy, the archive is very protective of the copies it distributes. In fact one of the less “expected” sources of funding comes from court actions that have been taken against individuals and corporations that have made use of the archive’s moving images without clearing the rights. 
 
 


The freedom of an independent film archive

The archive’s independence gives freedom to its board members to voice opinions and make suggestions too politically conflictive for other such institutions that are partly or fully depended on government funding (i.e. Filmoteca UNAM / Cineteca). 
Such was the case when Octavio Moreno Toscano voiced a suggestion, perhaps too controversial to be attained but, a daring step in such a politically censored society. The suggestion had to do with the massacre of Tlatelolco, a dark chapter in Mexico’s history wherein a large number of people were murdered by the police in an effort to halt marches against the 1968 Olympic Games. Moreno Toscano, who himself had attended the March that fateful October 2nd of 1968, made the following remarks regarding the possible existence of footage that documented the massacre: 
“The footage can be in many archives, like the National Film Archive (Archivo General de la Nación), or private film archives, like that of the former President. What we offer is our headquarters which are neutral, non-governmental and aloof from conflictive passions, in order to preserve them temporarily for their study. If this man [Garcia Pineda] has decided to speak up, the moment has come for that footage to come out. We guarantee the security of those films, until proper copies can be made for their safe keep.”

It is yet to be seen if the Tlatelolco footage ever sees the light of day. Still the liberty of expression of Octavio Moreno Toscano is something difficult to have in a country where censorship still plays a major role thus the convenience of running an independent institution.

The future of the Fundacion Toscano Archive

The lack of proper cataloging measures during the lifetime of Salvador Toscano, has made it difficult for historians to identify the authorship of some of the “newsreels,” held in the archive. Still, based on information provided by primary sources: letters, documents, film programs, posters, photographs, held at the Toscano Archive, historians Aurelio de los Reyes and Angel Miquel, among others, have been able to determined a precise list of Toscano’s film work.

The primary sources held at the archive are invaluable in understanding the vastness of an archive with many reels yet to be appraised. This point was pin pointed by Dr. Veronica Zarate Toscano, granddaughter of Salvador: “We have many reels that need to be rescued. We have introduced other images that are not included in the documentary film, like the funeral of Zapata or footage of gum exploits in Quitana Roo, or images from a trip of Francisco Madero. Though these images have been saved there is a lot of material that needs to be rescued. It is in cans inside a vault at “Los Barandales,” the country house that serves as the archives headquarters.“

On the skirts of the commemorations of the bicentenary of the Mexican independence, and that of the centenary of its complex revolution, the Toscano Film Archive is getting ready to re-launch “Memoirs of a Mexican” with a new DVD version that will be subtitled in English, French and German. Apart from that, the Larousse publishing house will present an edition aimed at documenting the Mexican revolution that will feature over three hundred photographs from the Toscano Archive, and the insight of noteworthy historians Enrique Krauze and Josefina Vazquez.

There is much to be done, like in many other film archives, the Fundacion Toscano Film Archive faces a race against time. Within its holdings many are the scenes yet to be resuscitated. Proper funding is key to the realization of this endeavor, that of saving the moving images that were taken over a century ago. This will indeed entail major fundraising work.

Considering the internal conflicts the Mexican nation is experiencing, in contrast with the historic celebrations that is soon to commemorate, it will be unavoidable for the nation to reflect upon its place in history by contrasting its present to its past. That past is a glance away, stored in the Fundacion Toscano film vault, the survival or disappearance of these moving images will be that nation’s sole responsibility. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering Miroslava Stern Becka (1926-1955)

by Alejandra Espasande Bouza

Originally published on February 22 of 2006 by LatinoLA.com
http://latinola.com/story.php?story=3234

Dedicated to Ivo Stern Becka and Paola Stern

This coming Sunday, February 26, Czech-born actress Miroslava Stern Becka would've turned eighty-years-old, that is, had her life not taken the tragic turn it did back in 1955 when - to the astonishment of her fans - the actress committed suicide, abruptly concluding a reputable career in the Mexican film industry, and an emerging one in Hollywood. What better occasion, than that of her birthday, to celebrate Miroslava's important contribution to the world of cinema.

To understand the life and myth of Miroslava Stern Becka is to delve into her early years when Mexico welcomed into its shores refugees from a war-stricken Europe, such as the family of Dr. Stern, who arrived in 1941 after a brief stay in Belgium, Finland and Sweden.

In Mexico, Dr. Stern was able to establish his medical practice allowing a comfortable lifestyle for his wife Miroslava Becka and their children, Miroslava and Ivo. By 1945 the family was well-immersed in the social circles of the Mexican upper class, and as such, joined the prestigious Churubusco Country Club, where what began as a social affair, Miroslava's participation in a beauty contest, would catapult her into stardom.

The contest was known as the Black and White ball, and from all the contestants; Miroslava was chosen the crowning queen. In the midst of the much coveted social spotlight, Miroslava married Jesus Jaime Obregon, a young man from a well-to-do family. Unfortunately, the marriage was not meant to last due to the couples' 'very' irreconcilable differences. The painful divorce was overshadowed by her mother's death.

It was under these circumstances that Miroslava accepted an offer from film producer Salvador Elizondo Pani. Her film debut began in January of 1946 with her participation in Tragic weddings/Bodas tragicas. In the film, a Mauricio Magdaleno adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello, Miroslava played the role of Desdemona, co-starring with actors Roberto Silva and Ernesto Alonso. What continued were a series of films where the new comer was given the opportunity to work with major actors such as: Arturo de Cordoba, Mario Moreno 'Cantinflas', Luis Aguilar, Pedro Armendariz and Pedro Infante.

There was something unique about Miroslava that set her apart from the very start, an exceptional beauty combined with a talent for impersonating an array of characterizations that ranged from the refined good girl to the femme fatale, to characters she came to embody best, those with mysterious qualities like that of Elena, a haunting spirit in the 1948 film An Adventure in the Night/Una Aventura en la Noche, or that of Tasia, the embodiment of death in the 1951 film Death in Love/La Muerte Enamorada.

If Miroslava's entry in the Mexican film industry had been a success, by 1950 a promising film career in Hollywood had already began to shape with her participation in The Brave Bulls, a Columbia Pictures production directed by Robert Rossen, where Miroslava starred next to Mel Ferrer and Anthony Queen.

To top it off, that same year Miroslava was featured in the July 10 cover of Life magazine, wearing a black Andalusian hat and a bullfighter's shirt. The magazine stated, 'After turning down more than 40 candidates, he [Robert Rossen] found something to his liking in Miroslava, an actress born in Czechoslovakia.'

As film offers kept on coming, the actress fled to Cuba in 1953 to film Stronger than love/Mas fuerte que el amor, next to Spanish heart throb Jorge Mistral. During her stay, the actress met the man that would be considered one of her most passionate flames, Spanish playboy matador Luis Miguel Dominguin.

By 1954 Miroslava's career was recognized with a nomination for an Ariel -Mexico's Film Academy Award - in the category of best supporting actress, for her performance in The three perfect wives/Las tres perfectas casadas. 

Also in 1954, the actress was paired with singer sensation Pedro Infante to star in Escuela para vagabundos/School for vagabonds, a romantic comedy that presented a well-structured story with top notch musical interludes. The film which opened in January of 1955 was a box office success, running for nine consecutive weeks.

That same month, when at the prime of her career, Miroslava was hired by filmmaker Luis Buñuel to work in the film The Criminal Life of Archivaldo de la Cruz. The film centered in the life of Archivaldo, played by Ernesto Alonso, an eccentric bourgeois man whose frustrating efforts to murder women drive the plot. Among Archivaldo's potential victims Buñuel casted actress Rita Macedo, who impersonated a feisty and salacious femme fatale; actress Ariadna Welter who played a virginal gold-digger; and Miroslava was given the role of the upbeat and wholesome Lavinia.



One scene of this film has always been associated with Miroslava's death. In an interview for Somos magazine actor Ernesto Alonso reminisced: 'We had a ten year friendship until 1955, when her death hit me really hard. The Criminal Life of Archivaldo de la Cruz (A.K.A. Crime Rehearsal) became a film of intense symbolism in my life. In it I cremated a mannequin that looked just like Miroslava and Buñuel wanted her to witness it. She got desperate and commented that she wished to be cremated after her death. Ten days after shooting the scene she committed suicide.'

In spite of the actresses' tragic death - on March 10, 1955 ' to the very present, her loyal audience has never failed to remember. Last year the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles hosted a tribute with the showcase of the film Miroslava (1992), based on a short story by novelist Guadalupe Loaeza. The director of the film, Alejandro Pelayo was present for a Q&A session with the audience.

Regarding the many theories around her suicide Pelayo - who did an exhaustive research into her life for the film - considered that Miroslava's suicide might have been detonated by what the film reflects: 'the melancholic feeling of loneliness, of nostalgia for her country, and her lack of love. She had a series of unfortunate love encounters,' explained Pelayo who also shared a fateful childhood moment: 'I was around ten-years-old and lived eight blocks from the house of Miroslava, in the same neighborhood, named Colonia Anzures, her house was in a street named Kepler, I lived on Shakespeare. When I heard the news of her suicide I took my bicycle and rode to her house to look at the scene, it was cordoned and crammed with police presence. It remained forever ingrained in me, never would I imagine that decades later I would direct a film about her.'

During the event Pavel Pochyly, Cultural director of the Czech Consulate, expressed his thanks to the nation of Mexico, and in special to Alejandro Pelayo, for documenting the life of the Czech actress, expressing: 'During the Nazi take over of Czechoslovakia the history of those who crossed the border was dissolved. It is thanks to other nations, and to other people, that we can learn about them,' concluded Pochyly making reference to the ignorance of many Czechs about the existence of the actress.

Instead of lingering in the tragic trying to fathom the reasons behind her suicide, often blamed upon a break-up with Luis Miguel Dominguin, it is best to place aside that ominous Bu'uelesque scene to remember her not just as a beautiful actress, but as an underestimated actress whose chameleonic film persona left a collection of truly remarkable performances. In the end, Miroslava's film legacy will live in the memory of her Latin American audiences, and why not, in the memory of her future Czech audiences, for once they discover her, as they did that magical night at the Czech Consulate, they will come to appreciate the accomplishments attained by one of their brethren, a fragile and talented girl from Prague.


Originally published in 2006

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The ¨Triumph¨ of Time

by Alejandra Espasande Bouza















Originally published on September 12 of 2002 by the Jewish Journal.
http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/the_triumph_of_time_20020913/

"Actress Leni Riefenstahl, friend and favorite of Adolph Hitler, convinced a denazification court for the second time today that her career during the Third Reich was artistic rather than political."
Los Angeles Examiner -- April 22, 1952

Fifty years later, this past Aug. 22, [2002] German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl chose the occasion of her 100th birthday to advertise the release of her new documentary film, "Impressions Under Water." What for Riefenstahl represents the achievement of her body's fight against time, for her critics it represents yet another effort to reinvent the legacy of the artist's tainted past. In regard to "Underwater Impressions," Riefenstahl recently commented:
"My film shows the beauty of the underwater world. I hope it will touch the viewer's conscience, as it illustrates just what the world will lose when nothing is done to stop the destruction of our oceans. I once said that I am fascinated by the beautiful and the living. I seek harmony, and under water, I have found it."

But how can an artist, whose life ethic was marked by her commitment to the Nazi regime, pretend to lecture the world about having a conscience, and then proceed to talk about her fascination with beauty and the living, when it was through the beauty of her visuals that Frau Riefenstahl immortalized the inhuman cult of the Third Reich?

Riefenstahl has always had a talent for showcasing beauty. At first, beauty was embodied in her dancing, which took her all over European stages, including performances for the prestigious Max Reinhard's theater company.




Beauty followed her entrance in the world of mountain-climbing films, where she acted under the direction of Dr. Arnold Fanck. The mountain films were a mix of the Alps' imposing beauty with that of Riefenstahl's characters, exemplified in "The Blue Light" (1932), the actress' directorial debut that centered on the story of a naïve girl named Junta (played by Riefenstahl) and her obsession for the blue light of Mount Cristallo.

Then, Riefenstahl chose a new career path, one that would place her talent at the service of politics -- a career financed by the Führer's admiration and interest in propagating the ideal of the Nazi state. The most notorious, "Triumph of the Will," a documentary film about Nuremberg's 1934 Nazi rally, organized from Sept. 5-20, showed Riefenstahl's capacity for beauty, earning her Germany's Festival of the Nation Award and France's Diplome du Grand Prix.

Ironically, time later, in 1939, France took a stand against fascism by creating -- through Philippe Erlanger, a member of the Association Française d'Action Artistique -- the Cannes Film Festival in response to a decision by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's Venice Film Festival to award "The Olympiad" (1938), a Riefenstahl documentary about the German Olympic Games, the year's best film award.

In November of that same year, Riefenstahl arrived in Los Angeles with the intention of finding a distributor for "The Olympiad." The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, headed by screenwriters Donald Odgen Stewart and Dorothy Parker, organized a strong campaign to boycott the efforts of an artist whose ties with the Nazi regime were more than enough to discredit her talent for beauty.

At the same time, the outrage over Kristallnacht infuriated the exiled Jewish community that found in Riefenstahl a representative of the Third Reich in America. On Nov. 29, 1939, an advertisement was published in Daily Variety, which said:

"Today, Leni Riefenstahl, head of the Nazi film industry, has arrived in Hollywood. There is no room in Hollywood for Leni Riefenstahl. In this moment when hundreds of thousands of our brethren await certain death, close your doors to all Nazi agents.¨

"Let the world know there is no room in Hollywood for a Nazi agent. Sign the petition for an economic embargo against Germany."


When Riefenstahl departed Los Angeles, she said, " I hope next time it will be different when I come, yes?" And yes was the answer given to her in August 1997 by the Cinecom Society of Cinephiles in the form of a tribute ceremony organized in the secrecy of Glendale's Red Lion Hotel. Kevin John Charbeneau, Cinecom' s president, described the event as a tribute to "a dancer, a choreographer, an actress, a cinematographer and a director."

But not everybody shared Charbeneau's view. In 1975, when Riefenstahl produced a pictorial book on Africa's Nuba tribe, two major efforts were made to thwart her comeback. Susan Sontag wrote an essay, "Fascinating Fascism," that analyzed what the film critic considered the undertones of the Nazi ideology embodied in Riefenstahl's "The Last of the Nuba."

In the essay, Sontag wrote, "In celebrating a society where the exhibition of physical skill and courage and the victory of the stronger man over the weaker are, as she sees it, the unifying symbols of the communal culture -- where success in fighting is the 'main' aspiration of a man's life -- Riefenstahl seems hardly to have modified the ideas of her Nazi films."

The second major attack on her came from the investigative work of World War II B-17 pilot Glenn B. Infield's "Leni Riefenstahl: The Fallen Film Goddess," a well-documented book about Riefenstahl's close ties with the Third Reich. The chapter, "The War Years," records the tragedies that befell artists such as Joachim Gottschalk and Kurt Gerron, whose decisions not to follow the Nazis caused their downfalls.

Jean Renoir's "La Grande Illusion" (1937), Charles Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940), Manolo Alonso's "I Am Hitler" (1942), George Pal's "Tulips Shall Grow" (1942) and Alain Resnais' "Night and Fog" (1955) are, what philosopher Albert Camus defined as the work of artists who, by definition, cannot put themselves at the service of those who make history, but at the service of those who suffer it.

No matter what Riefenstahl does in her remaining days, it will be impossible for the "artist" to erase the actions of the past. If her desire is that of being accepted, she should start by humbly disappearing from public life in respect for those that suffered the horror of the political machine that she helped promote and immortalize.

On the eve of the 68th anniversary of the making of "Triumph of the Will," it would be ideal, and necessary, for the sake of society and its future to reevaluate the roles of our often-overprotected "artists.'