During the Academy Awards, posthumous honor is usually given to those actors and filmmakers who have passed away since the previous awards. This segment of the program offers a brief glimpse into the great achievements and unique contributions of those honored. Many people enjoy this portion of the presentations as a chance to bridge the gap between the past and the present and explore themes for the future.
This year, along with such legendary figures as Bob Hope and Gregory Peck, the Academy thought it a good idea to honor Leni Riefenstahl, the notorious propaganda filmmaker for Hitler’s regime. It was truly strange to see Bob Hope, who used his talent, sacrificed his time, and risked his life to entertain troops fighting for freedom, being honored alongside Riefenstahl, who used her talent to promote the Nazi regime. There is no doubt that Riefenstahl was a Nazi. She often praised Hitler for his contributions to Germany and her films are nothing short of celebrations of the Nazi regime and its “achievements.” She never apologized for her association with Hitler, and claimed that she knew nothing of the mass murders that this monster inflicted on humanity and in particular the Jewish people. The more you consider who Riefenstahl was, the more shocking it is that this woman was even considered for such honors.
Even sadder were the pathetic rationalizations given by various parties justifying this honor. The contortions and twists of these people have been worthy of any Olympic gymnastics competition. The Academy Vice President, a Hollywood producer, saw no problem with the decision to honor Riefenstahl. Another well-known producer argued that Riefenstahl was a “genius” and that her work was innovative and is still copied today. A famous pop artist commented, “Hitler was evil, but I think that it was proper to have her name there. She was a great filmmaker and, as an artist myself, I think she deserved to be there.” This artist has been the victim of bias and prejudice himself, yet he was willing to honor someone who promoted racism because, even though her work was in the service of evil, she was a genius.
The final layer of irony in this is that it all took place while Mel Gibson was practically accused of being the CEO of Anti-Semitism Inc. Yes, a major figure in the Nazi propaganda machine was honored by the very industry which has mostly distanced itself from Gibson and his movie. While Mel is accused of distorting history to suit his personal agenda and purpose, the Academy distorts history by turning a Nazi into a “Nicey” for the purpose of honoring her work. While the Catholic Church is falsely accused of denying the Holocaust, defending those who would kill Jews, and even helping to slaughter Jews, a woman who has clearly done all of these three things is honored!
Let’s see if we have this right: Mel is an anti-Semite but a Nazi filmmaker is not? Mel’s movie is a distortion of history and a mockery of the Jewish people, but honoring someone who helped kill Jews is a good idea? Mel is promoting hatred of the Jews, but Riefenstahl was being an innovative genius? Showing some ancient Jews involved in wrongdoing against another Jew is “bias” but actually helping to murder Jews is “art”?
So just where are the religious, political, media, and entertainment leaders who protested against Mel Gibson? Where are the groups of protesters with banners and posters crying out “blood libel” as they did against Mel’s film? Where are the top Hollywood directors and producers who expressed disgust with Mel? Why are they silent? Why leave us with the impression that all of this not really about anti-Semitism at all?
© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange
Gabriel Garnica is a licensed attorney and educator with over 20 years teaching experience at the college, business school, and middle-school levels. He has a BA in Psychology from St. John's University in New York and a J.D. from the New York University School of Law. Mr. Garnica writes extensively on spiritual and educational issues and conducts seminars on time management, leadership, and personal development.