Presented at this year's Viennale Film Festival in Vienna, Laura Poitras' documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, follows renowned international photographer Nan Golding. Since the 1980s, Goldin has been showing how her life and art are viscerally interconnected.
The filmmaker Laura Poitras, focuses on P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), an activist group founded by Nan Goldin, during the last two years of their protests. The group has staged demonstrations in art institutes around the world, where the Sackler family (avid art collectors) have donated artefacts to promote their name as philanthropists and conservators of culture.
They are also the owners of Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company who produce Oxycontin, an opioid. In the USA, nearly all 50 states have filed lawsuits against Purdue and Sackler family members for their alleged roles in the opioid crisis; where almost half a million people died from opioid overdoses, including prescription and illicit opioids.
I’ve started a group, P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), to hold them accountable.
If you are familiar with the photographs of Nan Goldin, you know she is a groundbreaking artist, who was one of the first photographers to introduce the concept of depicting her own life as it is, and presenting it as an art form. This movie is no exception, but it is also much more. This movie is a rare gift to any lover of photography, and gives us the chance to fully experience the work, life and legacy of Nan Goldin.
There is meaning and beauty in life, even in the darkest times, and Nan Goldin is there to show us just that. While opening the door into her life, with unseen personal images, she narrates the events, the fil rouge into understanding her experiences, and the need to destigmatize drug addiction.
The viewer has the rare opportunity to be immersed in and learn about some of Goldin’s most famous photographic work, such as The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, first shown in underground bars in New York, as a slide show. Also presented in the documentary is The Other Side, Sisters, Saints and Sibyls, and Memory Lost.
The thread that runs throughout each chapter is the theme of her upbringing. A suburban American family, the struggle through the loss of her sister to suicide, the fight against substance abuse and abusive lovers, and the loss of her chosen family to AIDS.
This film shows us how her life and art were the purest forms of activism. Just by choosing to live freely, expressing herself while being unafraid of censorship or bigotry, and facing any obstacle with her head held high.
She also put herself at the front line when staging protests in all major art institutes such as the MET, The National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, and the Guggenheim. These are institutions that hold her work in permanent collections, but still she feels the need to protest, demanding them to stop taking money from the Sackler family and to take down their names. She bravely uses her work as leverage.
It is impossible to leave a screening of this film and not have your guts completely turned upside down due to the intensity and touching beauty experienced. In some ways I'm sure we all can relate to what we see: an ode to strength, to art, and living life to the fullest.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is set to be released on November 23, 2022.