“Sacklers lie, people die!,” chant a group of protesters inside the Sackler wing of New York’s Met museum before falling to the ground in a powerful ‘die-in’ act. They are led by photographer and recovering addict Nan Goldin, whose hate toward the Sacklers, the billionaire family responsible for millions of deaths through the distribution of OxyContin, is felt, explored, and understood through Laura Poitra’s Golden Lion-winning All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.
Instead of simply exploring the role of the Sacklers in the opioid crisis and the efforts of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, an organization founded by Goldin) to make them pay for all the deaths they have caused and remove their name from art galleries around the world, Poitras digs deep into the life of Goldin to find the root of her fighting fire and display it in the most elegant and beautiful of manners for us to understand and sympathize with her on a profound level.
Poitras cleverly interweaves the current fight against the Sacklers with a comprehensive tour through Goldin’s life. This back-and forth-might be a little disconcerting at first but, thanks to the superb editing of Amy Foote, Joe Bini, and Brian A. Kates, it quickly becomes an important and highly engaging tool to create a full picture.
The past of Goldin is divided into chapters, and it starts with a crucial element of her life: the death of her older sister, Barbara, who committed suicide after being exiled by their parents for being a lesbian. Goldin left home after being warned that she may suffer a similar fate if she stayed with her parents, and endured a multitude of hardships until finally finding her own family: a community of LGTBQ artists.
The ‘past’ section of All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is narrated by Goldin herself through an intimate self-reflective interview that is accompanied by slideshows of her photographic work which is also a documentation of her life. Queer repression, sexual desire, domestic abuse, and the AIDS crisis are some of the themes that are explored with each passing chapter.
Goldin’s work is magnificent. Her photos capture life with raw and heartfelt authenticity; they are multilayered pieces of work that can carry a different meaning every time you see them. This allows the documentary to transform: you can see one thing in one photo, but then its meaning changes with Goldin’s narration, and it will probably change the second time you watch the film.
You can see and feel all the beauty and the bloodshed of the world through this filmic art exhibition that progressively builds toward the complete understanding of Goldin’s hate toward the Sacklers: she lost her sister, she lost many of her newfound family to the AIDS crisis, she almost lost an eye due to domestic abuse, she barely survived addiction, and she will not rest until a bunch of heartless billionaires is held accountable for profiting off people’s pain. She’s an inspiring figure that combines her sublime art skills with her frustration and rage to effectively change the world.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a masterful conjunction of art, activism, and community. It’s a cathartic movie that depicts the world in all its rottenness but also the wonderful people that live in it. It’s a movie about the different shapes love and family can take because it was the love of a queer community that allowed Goldin to flourish and find herself. And, deep down, love is the true fuel of her fight against injustice.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
- Rating - 9.5/109.5/10
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a masterful conjunction of art, activism, and community. It’s a cathartic movie that depicts the world in all its rottenness but also the wonderful people that live in it.