Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Leeds International Film Festival)

2 min read

Image: Laura Poitras

From the acclaimed filmmaker Laura Poitras, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed explores the dark opioid epidemic as photographer Nan Goldin takes on the powerful, big-pharma Sackler family. The film is structured into seven chapters and told through a combination of talking-head style interviews, b-roll footage, and archival snapshots by Nan.  

Image of :

Goldin is a somewhat controversial artist who provides an in-depth window into her life. Her traumatic childhood is followed by the struggle to find herself in New York at the height of the AIDS crisis. Goldin's life experiences are what elevated her photography and played a large part in shaping her career. Her differences are her success, as she documents the culture in every sense, candid, intimate, provocative, and staged. The queer cinephiles will feel both joy and anguish at the sight of ' favourite, Cookie, and fellow artist David Wojnarowicz, both appear in her photography and as a friend.  

Cue the Sackler family – rich, powerful, and highly unethical. A key player in the pharmaceutical world, they are heavily responsible for the distribution of opioids in the US. Goldin speaks of her near-fatal overdose after becoming addicted to her prescribed opioid, Oxytocin. Fuelled by this experience, in 2017, she founded the advocacy group PAIN (Prescription, Addiction, Intervention, Now). The group targets museums and galleries with an affiliation or attachment to the Sacklers. Each chapter begins with archival footage of Goldin and a slideshow of her work, intercut with the PAIN group at a protest. It is an immensely moving battle of power, accomplished seamlessly with the avant-garde, quintessential queerness of Nan Goldin.  

Art and opioids are two subjects that seem worlds apart, yet effortlessly linked by Poitras. Aside from the Sackler family, this film executes its portrayal of the fight against injustice in marginalised communities. In the 1980's it was homosexuals that were the greatest enemy; more recently, the opioid crisis has infected the US. Neither victim is guilty of their mistreatment, which Nan fights to change. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a superb portrait and undoubtably the highlight of the festival. Nan's vivacious personality captivates you throughout; an original badass, it's impossible not to smile when you see her onscreen.   

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed screened at