Follows the life of artist Nan Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty who was greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll.
Recently nominated for the ‘Best Documentary’ prize at this years Oscars, ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’ is Laura Poitras’s follow up to her Oscar winning Edward Snowden documentary ‘Citizenfour’. It tells the story of the American photographer and artist Nan Goldin, specifically through the lens of how her activism helped lead to the fall of the Sackler family, big players in the art world who had made a lot of their fortune from the promotion of highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs such as Oxycontin.
‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’ begins with a protest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, before going back in time to tell the story of Goldin’s life and upbringing, and how those circumstances led her to be the leader of a protest movement against the Sackler family. Structured into seven chapters, Poitras uses Goldin’s photography as a framing device for the themes explored in each segment, with each segment generally covering elements of Goldin’s past that then tie into her activist work in the present day. Goldin is a very bitter woman, but she has good reason to be, and I felt the movie showed how she was learning to channel that rage effectively to deliver real, meaningful change with some of the most effective protests I’ve seen.
As someone unfamiliar with Nan Goldin or the art world in general, I was surprised at how engrossed I found myself in her life story and her work, particularly as I thought this documentary would have been primarily about the Sacklers and the protest, as opposed to something with a greater scope. It shines a light on some of the despicable practices undertaken by large, faceless corporations, and that makes it all the more powerful when the Sackler’s are confronted with individuals directly harmed by their practices. ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’ is a tribute to Nan Goldin and her life’s work, and to positive activism and how it can have a positive impact on the world.
Directed By: Laura Poitras
Starring: Nan Goldin, Patrick Radden Keefe and Megan Kapler