All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a feat of documentary filmmaking chronicling how art is intrinsically woven into the fabric of resistance.
BY TRESCA MALLON FEBRUARY 23, 2023
In All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, ground breaking documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras draws a direct line from the AIDS crisis to the opioid crisis, from the stigma and scorn levelled towards the queer community to that poured upon those who live with addiction. The ‘Goldin’ thread which weaves the film is Nan and her immense contribution to both struggles. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is both a portrait of an artist and a searing critique of a crisis that has destroyed the lives of millions.
Inherently queer, incredibly transgressive and gorgeously rebellious, Nan Goldin has been gifting the world with her art since the 1970s. After a cold and lonely childhood which silenced her until her teens, she found a home and a voice among the queer community of Boston, then New York and then the world. After her addiction to prescription opioids almost claimed her life, Nan founded PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). Her organisation has taken on some of the largest, most renowned art spaces in the world from the Met Gallery to the Louvre. Their demand? Stop taking money from the Sackler family and take down their name from their gallery. The Sackler family were once one of the most powerful families in the world residing over a bloody medication empire. They are credited with creating an opioid crisis which has taken and continues to take thousands of lives in the USA and throughout the world. Nan and PAIN have worked for years to take them down.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed intermittently chronicles this struggle while also taking a deep dive into Goldin’s life. Poitras’ interviews with Nan, which permeate the film, are, like her art, extremely candid and visceral. Goldin tracks her life from a troubled childhood, her sisters suicide, her extraordinary friendships, experiences and struggle to be accepted as an artist. To see Goldin’s work projected on a cinema screen is a rare treat. The level of humanity exhibited in every single frame of her work and her incomparable ability to capture both the vulnerability and strength of the human condition set her apart. Goldin says that she is always very open about her life and she didn’t intend to be any different in All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. She delves into her history of sex work, the abuse she suffered at the hands of a long term lover and the intricacies of the dysfunction which tore her family apart. She takes us through the devastation caused to her found family by the AIDS crisis and the work she did bringing artists together to protest and raise awareness.
The narrative seamlessly transitions between this and her modern day work with the opioid crisis. There is a dreamlike quality to the conversations about Nan’s past which clash wonderfully with the reality of the present. Nan’s unapologetic rebellion never wavers from her teen years to her present. Poitras allows Nan’s portraits to speak for themselves and never censors nor filters her words. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a feat of documentary filmmaking chronicling how art is intrinsically woven into the fabric of resistance.