Laura Poitras’ film honors activist photographer Goldin

VENICE, Italy (AP) — When filmmaker Laura Poitras went to meet American photographer Nan Goldin about a project to document her protests against museums accepting money from the Sackler family, Goldin was mildly apprehensive.

“My concern when she arrived was that I had no state secrets to share and that I was not important enough for this,” Goldin said on Saturday in Venice.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Edward Snowden’s documentary ‘Citizenfour’ was already looking ahead to ‘the present-day horror story of a billionaire family knowingly creating an epidemic, then funneling money to museums in swapping tax waivers and naming galleries,” she said. But she soon realized it was only part of a much bigger story involving the whole community. Goldin’s life and work.

The result is ‘All Beauty and Bloodshed’, which makes its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, where it is part of the competition’s main slate. Poitras, before the premiere, thanked the festival for recognizing that “documentary is cinema”.

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is unmistakably an epic, weaving together Goldin’s past and present through his works, his intimate conversations and his powerful connections between the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the overdose epidemic. of today.

“We knew we didn’t want to do a typical biopic or artist portrait,” Poitras said. “Nan’s life deserves an epic film, for what she did, what she achieved and the risks she took. We wanted it to have an epic quality.

Goldin, whose job has always been to “remove the stigma,” said her attention turned to the Sacklers when she walked out of a clinic to get sober. She had only known the Sacklers as philanthropists, but then started reading 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 it helped spark an addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States 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 have funded work at Oxford and Yale.

“The things I do are not a choice,” Goldin said. “My thought was how can I shame them among 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 due to Goldin’s protests. In 2019, the Met announced it would stop receiving monetary gifts from Purdue Pharma-related Sacklers.

Now Goldin has turned her attention to harm reduction.

“We were never anti-opioid,” Goldin said. “We were anti-overdose and people were making money off of overdose.”

Poitras said he intentionally kept the project a little under the radar. It’s bound to create “a bit of nervousness” on the boards, she thinks, as Poitras said the Sacklers aren’t the only name doing it.

Neon acquired the film last month for distribution and will publish a retrospective of Goldin’s work, which opens October 29 at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

“My proudest thing is that we brought down a family of billionaires,” Goldin said. “We shot one. So far.”


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Robert M. Larson