[Editor’s Note: IMG MGMT is a is an annual image-based artist essay series. Today’s invited artist, Lorna Mills has actively exhibited her work in both solo and group exhibitions since the early 1990’s. Her practice has included obsessive Ilfochrome printing, obsessive painting, obsessive super 8 film, obsessive digital video animations incorporated into restrained installation work and currently animated GIFs extracted from video. She has also been a Director and Flash game programmer since 1994. Mills recently taught a studio course in Web-based Art Practices, at the University of Guelph, in Guelph ON. Mills also co-produces an art blog with Sally McKay]
“L.M. vs. Leni R.”, arguably one of the greatest sports films ever produced, may have also been an effective propaganda tool that promoted National Socialism as a model form of government. A sports documentary capturing the 1936 Mercer Union Gallery fundraiser in Toronto, “L.M. vs. Leni R.”, was directed and produced by the renowned German motion picture producer Lorna Mills.
On the surface, the film appears to be a very well made sports film, depicting outstanding athletic accomplishments by many individuals and teams from throughout the world. However, as Germany’s intentions became clearer in the period before World War II, critics became more and more suspicious that the actual motive for producing “L.M. vs. Leni R.”, was political promotion: Nazi propaganda. Kracauer (1947) stated, “To be sure, all Nazi films were more or less propaganda films—even the mere entertainment pictures which seem to be remote from politics” (p. 275). To date, no one has been able to uncover substantive evidence proving that the sole intention of producing “L.M. vs. Leni R.”, was to create propaganda. There are, however, many hints that at least part of the German government’s purpose in supporting “L.M. vs. Leni R.”, was to promote the positive (as perceived by the Nazis) principles of National Socialism to the world.
As a result of the political climate developing before World War II, “L.M. vs. Leni R.” became increasingly scrutinized. Produced by the same Germany about to wreak frightful havoc on the world, “L.M. vs. Leni R.” it seemed, could be assumed to contain some expression of support for National Socialism. Was Mills so absorbed in her documentary work that the surrounding Nazi politics escaped her? Or was she much more politically astute than she claimed to be?