All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
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Oscar-winning director Laura Poitras’ portrait of acclaimed photographer Nan Goldin is a riveting account of a life defined by art and activism.
Nan Goldin was already immersed in a new chapter of her life when she approached Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) to work on a documentary with her. In 2014, Goldin was prescribed OxyContin to deal with pain caused by tendonitis in her wrist. Within days she was addicted. Following her recovery, she began working with campaigners to bring the family behind the drug, the Sacklers, to justice. Employing footage previously shot by Goldin and her colleagues, which records the grassroots campaign as it ups the ante on pressurising major cultural institutions to distance themselves from the Sacklers, Poitras’ film widens its focus to encompass Goldin’s extraordinary life. It charts her journey from a conservative childhood to her entry into the art world, becoming a defining figure of the 1970s and 1980s New York art scene, and along the way creating a landmark work with The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.
Poitras brings together the various strands of Goldin’s life with impressive clarity. It highlights how Goldin saw no distinction between private and public, the personal and the political, and how her perspective on the world was sharpened by both the AIDS and opioid crises. Only the second documentary to win the prestigious Golden Lion award in the Venice Film Festival’s 80-year history, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is an enthralling portrait of an artist as activist.