West News Wire: Nan Goldin, an American photographer, was a little concerned when filmmaker Laura Poitras went to see her about a project to chronicle her protests against museums receiving donations from the Sackler family.
Goldin said Saturday in Venice, “My concern when she came on was that I didn’t have any state secrets to divulge and I wasn’t important enough for this.
“The present-day horror narrative of a billionaire family willfully generating an epidemic, and then funneling money into institutions in exchange for tax write-offs and naming galleries,” she added, referring to the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour.” But she soon saw that this was simply a small portion of a much larger narrative including Goldin’s entire life and body of work.
The result is “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” which is having its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, where it is part of the main competition slate. Poitras, before the premiere, thanked the festival for recognizing that “documentary is cinema.”
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is by all accounts an epic, interweaving Goldin’s past and present through her works, intimate conversations and powerful connections between the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the overdose epidemic of today.
“We knew that we didn’t want to make a biography film, or a typical artist portrait,” Poitras said. “Nan’s life deserves an epic film, for what she’s done, what she’s accomplished and the risks she’s taken. We wanted it to have an epic quality.”
Goldin, whose work has always been about “removing stigma,” said her attention turned to the Sacklers when she got out of a clinic to get sober. She had only known the Sacklers as philanthropists, but then started reading articles about opioid overdoses and Purdue Phama and knew she had to do something.
Sackler is a name that has become synonymous with Purdue Pharma, the company that developed OxyContin, a widely prescribed and widely abused painkiller. Purdue has faced a barrage of lawsuits alleging that it helped spark an addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.
Foundations run by members of the Sackler family have given tens of millions of dollars to museums, including the Guggenheim in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and funded work at Oxford and Yale.
“The things I do are not a choice,” Goldin said. “My thought was how can I shame them amongst their own social strata?”
In recent years, the Guggenheim, the Louvre in Paris, the Tate in London and the Jewish Museum in Berlin have all distanced themselves from the family, in part because of Goldin’s protests. In 2019, the Met announced it would stop taking monetary gifts from Sacklers connected to Purdue Pharma.
Now, Goldin has turned her attention to harm reduction.
“We were never anti-opioid,” Goldin said. “We were anti-overdose and people making money off of overdose.”
Poitras said they kept the project a little bit under the radar intentionally. It’s bound to create “some nervousness” on boards, she thinks, as Poitras said the Sacklers aren’t the only name doing this.
Neon acquired the film last month for distribution and will release a retrospective of Goldin’s work, opening Oct. 29 at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
“My proudest thing is we brought down a billionaire family,” Goldin said. “We brought one down. So far.”