All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, 2022, USA)

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, winner of the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival, is a documentary that works between two subjects. On the one hand, the film is an examination of the life and works of photographer Nan Goldin. Various segments - in the style of slideshows - provide us with background on Goldin's life. The film notably starts with a tribute to her sister, who committed suicide at a very young age - thus establishing a pattern of resistance for Goldin that would set her on her trajectory to be an artist. These slideshow segments are often connected to the works of Goldin, most notably a segment wherein she details a sexual assault and battery against herself - the subject of one of her pieces.

The other half of the film reflects on Goldin and her organization's attempt to take down the Sackler family. The Sacklers, whose Purdue Pharma pushed the drug oxycontin onto the American public starting from the 1990s (and willfully downplayed the nature of its addictiveness) a central figure in the art world, lending its name to galleries across the world - from the Met in New York to the Louvre. We see footage of various protests and "die-ins" by Goldin's organization - very much inspired by the gay activism of ACT UP - to shame the museums into removing the Sackler name. 

Director Laura Poitras successfully integrates the anti-Sackler campaign into Nan Goldin's larger body of work, making a film that does not feel preachy but rather like a larger extension of the artist it is exploring. The film does not explain much detail about Sackler's tactics, but this is not the subject of the documentary, and in that regard, there are many better documentaries out there exploring this subject.



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