When one studies film history in an American University, you are taught that the Nazis are really bad.
When one studies film history in an American University, you are taught that the Nazis are really bad, but that Leni Riefenstahl (1902 - 2003) is totally awesome. Triumph of the Will and, to a much lesser extent Olympia (perhaps because of its 4 hour running time) are two heavily-garlanded, University approved propaganda pieces for the Third Reich. This is owed almost solely to Riefenstahl's prowess as a director, and, therein, her keen ability to persuade an audience that Third Reich Germany rules.
The serious issue that one takes with Riefestahl's oeuvre is not that of her being an implicit proponent of Nazism (literally everyone who stayed and made art in Germany during Hitler's reign was), but of her active promotion, elevation, and dissemination of Nazi ideas that, in hindsight, we can say were probably some of the most heinous, mass-implemented ideas of the 20th century. It is her engagement and interaction with the moral turpitude of Nazism that has forever sullied her image as a major filmmaker, an image that she would later, after numerous trials and libel suits, unsuccessfully attempt to redeem. She manipulated and indoctrinated millions through her films. And she was able to do this much in the same way as Hollywood wunderkind Steven Spielberg (director, 1946 - present): by consolidating and refining their predecessors' techniques, honing a story to its bare bones, and then blowing you the fuck out of the water with ridiculously good visual effects and blaring trumpets.
This is why, among a slew of other reasons which are also hilarious and probably require their own separate monograph, that Schindler's List is at least as morally questionable as Triumph of the Will . Spielberg, with the lapdog allegiance of master emotional puppet master John Williams (composer, 1932 - present), creates a manipulative masterpiece, a film that it is socially impossible not to like (at least when it was released in 1993). The logical steps which lead to naysayers' ostracization here are terminally faulty, but essentially boil down to this: You don't like Schindler's List, you're a Nazi. Which is what Third Reich Germans said about Triumph of the Will: you don't like Triumph, you're not a Nazi (or you're a jew). The idea here is that the supposed message of the film is more important than the aesthetic artifice employed. Which is total bullshit and leads to the perpetuation of crappy propaganda art. The difference being that the end goal of the Nazi propaganda machine was world domination and genocide, whereas the end goal of Hollywood propaganda machine is world domination and hard cash. Either way, both use massive aesthetic sledgehammers to bash their respective audiences' heads in with such brute force that all questions regarding complex morality and its transmission via aesthetics are rendered completely moot.
Art is supposed to be interpretive and ambiguous, and it should not be afraid of engaging its audience in dialog. By denying this, filmmakers treat their audiences like retards. And perhaps they're right. Perhaps we are retards. But maybe it's filmmakers who are, in the end, underestimating viewers. And maybe, when the dinosaurs win the war, Spielberg will be hung as a war criminal.