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Napalm, A Tribute to Claude Lanzmann

Napalm, A Tribute to Claude Lanzmann


Los Angeles Filmforum and Acropolis Cinema present

Napalm, directed by Claude Lanzmann

Monday September 24, 2018, 8:00pm

At the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main Street, Los Angeles CA 90012

Los Angeles premiere of the last film by Claude Lanzmann, director of Shoah

Napalm is the story of the breathtaking and brief encounter, in 1958, between a French member of the first Western European delegation officially invited to North Korea after the devastating Korean war (4 million civilians killed) and a nurse working for the Korean Red Cross hospital, in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Nurse Kim Kun Sun and the French delegate had only one word in common, that both could understand: “Napalm”, hence the title. Claude Lanzmann returned to Korea without the permission to film and each take represents an extraordinary victory over the permanent control of the regime’s political police, who discovered the real reasons for his return, sixty years later, to the peninsula of the extreme North. (uniFrance)

“A mini-masterpiece... to my mind one of the year’s most romantic films.” - Christopher Small, Sight & Sound

“[A] fascinating and gripping story, at least partly for what Lanzmann leaves out and a possibility he does not wish to acknowledge.” - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“It’s in the natty particulars and the way Lanzmann remembers them — slow, honest, sometimes arduous — that Napalm finds its value as a cultural document and political statement. [It's] deeply realistic about the pain and impossibility of human experience in a hawkish world in which gunless wars are the unremitting norm.” - Jaymes Durante, 4:3

“Napalm mines Lanzmann’s own prejudices and past to reveal that a mere passing anecdote in the 20th century’s political and human history in fact holds at its core the wisdom of the tragedy of the battle of communism and capitalism.” - Daniel Kasman, MUBI Notebook

“A supreme storyteller... In Napalm [Lanzmann] uses his own experience to fuel the narrative. What results is a unique look at a place and people who we have mostly known through news reports or government propaganda, but rarely in movies through such a human point of view.”  - Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

Tickets: $12 general; free for Filmforum members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

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This program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2018 is our 43rd year.

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napalm 2



Director: Claude Lanzmann

Producer: Francois Margolin; Director of photography: Caroline Champetier

2017, color, sound, 1 hour, 40 min.

“With a gift for telling stories and rather incredible sense of hyperbole, Lanzmann narrates a film split into two sections. The first follows the director and a skeleton crew as they embark on a guided tour of sites in Pyongyang, while the second consists of a single long sequence where Lanzmann recounts his first visit to North Korea back in 1958 (in a story that was mentioned in his excellent book The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir)….    

“Lanzmann’s best work has revealed in painstaking detail how civilians were targeted and summarily executed during the Second World War, and here he uses archive footage of Pyongyang’s leveling — entire blocks decimated or in flames, children screaming over the corpses of their parents — to explain why the horrors of the Korean War will not necessarily be forgotten by those that suffered the most from it.

“After a more amusing excursion to a movie set and a taekwondo academy with some killer fighting girls, the film’s second half returns to the lengthy interview method of Shoah and other movies — except this time the interviewee is Lanzmann himself, who tells a long, rambling but also fascinating and poignant story about his trip to the country as part of the first Western delegation to be invited there after the war ended.

“During that visit, Lanzmann — who as a young Communist was eager to discover the DPRK for himself — met a young nurse whose beauty he describes in near-lecherous ways, explaining how he was so smitten with the woman that he set up a date with her that almost brought the two of them a heap of trouble. And while he admits that his goal may have been to get the nurse into bed, what he encountered was a person suffering two-fold: first from the American bombings, then under a regime that has almost never let its subjects communicate with the outside world.

“Lanzmann may definitely be in love with his own voice — some viewers will surely find the film’s latter half too long — but he’s also a supreme storyteller who has relied on first-hand accounts throughout his career to bear witness to some of the darkest periods in modern history. In Napalm, he uses his own experience to fuel the narrative, mixing his visit in 2015 with memories of the past. What results is a unique look at a place and people who we have mostly known through news reports or government propaganda, but rarely in movies through such a human point of view.” – Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2017,

Peter Bradshaw review in The Guardian,