All The Beauty and The Bloodshed

Review by Inés Murray Gómez

The Sacklers are the billionaire family behind Purdue Pharma, which has come under fire in the last few decades for their historically predatory marketing of the opioid OxyContin. Activists and experts alike consider that their campaigns led to overprescription which significantly contributed to the opioid crisis that has ruined the lives of millions of people in the US for decades. The subject of All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, 2022), Nan Goldin, is a photographer and former OxyContin addict fighting to have the Sackler family discredited in the art world. This family’s generous donations to prestigious art institutions, such as the Met or the Louvre, have bought them a reputation as philanthropists and art lovers incompatible with the horror of their legacy as opioid peddlers. 

All The Beauty and the Bloodshed is a documentary which follows Nan Goldin’s life, with the Sackler family and their crimes at the forefront of much of the publicity around the film. Given this, and how much of the trailer and the first minutes of the film deal with the Sackler plotline it would be easy to assume that this documentary is an account of the crimes and downfall of this family. Nonetheless, this film is actually a fairly straightforward narrative of the life of an artist in which the Sacklers play a significant but ultimately peripheral role. Some comments made in the film and the publicity around it indicate a mismatch in the visions director and subject had for this work. It is quite apparent that Goldin’s purpose with this project is to raise awareness of the Sacklers’ crimes, while Poitras is much more invested in telling the life story of this charismatic artist. 

This impulse is perfectly understandable considering the finished piece, Poitras paints a compelling story of Goldin’s life as an artist and activist whose personal tragedies have propelled her into a passion for fighting for the little guy. Furthermore, Poitras’ use of Goldin’s photography throughout the film gives the audience a glimpse into this artist’s rebellious and nonconformist tendencies. Her art is not only a tool for aesthetic stimulation, but for political commentary and action.

The narrative of this documentary is somewhat untidy and there is a noticeable break in the direction it takes at the very start. In spite of this, it’s worth a watch for the recreation of Goldin’s slideshow photography exhibitions and the interesting anecdotes of her life among artists. On the other hand, if it’s the advertised Sackler plotline that you’re interested in, it should be noted that you can show up an hour and a half late to the screening and not miss much of it.


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