Was Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’ a Documentary or Propaganda?

This Y10 lesson provides a very good balance between thought and activity. Having discussed  the differences between a propaganda film and a documentary, students have to find as many as 20 different ways in which the short excerpt from Leni Riefenstahl’s film could be construed as propaganda. There is a competitive post-it challenge element to the lesson which makes it fun and memorable, as well as deepening understanding of Hitler’s methods of propaganda.  I am grateful to Richard McFahn for adding the PowerPoint to this lesson.

Learning objectives

  • to encourage students to critically evaluate a source (the film) and to engage in a real historical debate to encourage a more kinaesthetic approach to learning history than normally found at Key Stage 4.
  • to encourage students to write a convincing argument, drawing on the evidence they have elicited from the film and broader preparatory reading

Step1: Starter

Explain to the students that they will be watching a short piece of archive film produced in Nazi Germany which has been the source of some debate. The students have to work out if the section they will be viewing is propaganda or documentary. To get them thinking, ask them in pairs to list

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