Flahtahl's Propaganda Triumph Of The Will ( 1938 )

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Since the advent of documentary film with Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), those with power have sought to use it as a tool in their arsenal to reach people. Advances in communications technology in the early twentieth century allowed it to be used as a one-way message delivery system to the masses, however the ways in which this has been implemented have varied hugely based on context and political viewpoint. Through consideration of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda Triumph of the Will (1935), and Lorentz’s advocacy documentary The River (1938) this essay will analyse the concepts of persuasion, education and propaganda in documentary film, discussing the similarities and differences between these areas. It is worth first briefly defining the ideas that this essay will cover, education is at its purest form the provision of information and systematic instruction while persuasion is the attempt to induce change through reasoning. Propaganda, conversely, is non-objective/biased information used to promote a point of view. Although on paper the distinctions seem clear, in practical use it quickly becomes apparent how much these lines can blur. If persuasion is a technique that attempts to change viewpoints, how far does it really sit from this idea of propaganda? Both films that will be discussed were produced in the nineteen thirties, a turbulent political landscape where the great depression and high unemployment rates in Europe had put democratic capitalism under

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