All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Inside her extraordinary art and life

Laura Poitras’ latest documentary film “All the Bloody and the Bloodshed”, which received the Golden Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival in last year and then garnered an Oscar nomination early in this year, looks into the art and life of one very compelling female artist. While it is interesting to see how wild and fearless she has been as a rebelliously unconventional artist for many years, it is also fascinating to watch how defiant and persistent she was in her recent group movement against one big social injustice, and it is touching to observe how her past and present often powerfully resonate with each other throughout the documentary.

Her name is Nan Goldin, and the documentary initially shows us how she and several colleagues of hers worked together for holding a certain big pharmaceutical company accountable for the ongoing opioid epidemic in the American society. When Purdue Pharma began to sell a new painkiller product named Oxycontin around the late 1990s, the company blatantly lied to people that there was not much possibility of addiction in Oxycontin, and this big lie consequently led to lots of personal and financial damage to not only thousands of individuals but also the whole society during the next two decades. Because she also had her own problem with Oxycontin addiction, Goldin really cared a lot about this serious social injustice, so she decided to do a number of public group protests against not only Purdue Pharma but also one rich and influential family who had owned the company for years.

That wealthy family in question is the Sacklers, and their name will probably feel a bit familiar to you if you have ever been to any of those big art museums ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to the Louvre in Paris. For many years, the Sacklers had eagerly donated lots of money to those big art museums around the world, and their name had been frequently associated with many of them. Needless to say, this was one of their insidious ways of whitewashing their public image, but those museums associated with them did not object to this at all, while also showing some appreciation and recognition in exchange.

Goldin and her fellow activists knew well that, considering their big and powerful opponent, they did not have much chance from the beginning, but that did not stop them from going all the way for making their social issue known much more to not only plain citizens but many big art museums which had been funded by the Sacklers. Once they did a little but significantly successful demonstration at one certain section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018, they quickly moved onto other prominent museums including the Guggenheim Museum, and they surely impressed the public more with several clever tactics for drawing more attention.

Meanwhile, the documentary also delves into how Goldin’s life has been saved and driven by art throughout her whole life. She had a very unhappy suburban childhood due to her parents who turned out to be much more problematic than they seemed on the surface, and she is still haunted a lot by the old memories of her dear older sister, who tragically died at a young age after having so much trouble with her parents.

In the end, after clashing a lot with her parents just like her older sister did, Goldin was eventually drifted to New York City around the 1970s, and that was where she came to find not only freedom but also her own considerable artistic potential. As frequently photographing her many different fellows of the LGBTQ+ subculture of the city, she came to develop more of her talent and sensibility day by day, and she eventually came to have her first official exhibition.

While she tried to advance more as an artist, Goldin surely had some hard and difficult time. After all, her art field was mostly male-dominant, so she had to struggle more for getting more recognition, and she also frequently experienced how casually her artistic freedom could be blocked. When the AIDS epidemic was raging during the 1980s, she naturally became determined to show more of its devastating personal damages to the public, but then her following exhibition was hurriedly canceled for clearly unfair reasons, and that certainly frustrated and exasperated her and her colleagues a lot.

Compared to how much Goldin and her colleagues fought against the AIDS epidemic and the accompanying social stigma, her fight against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers in the late 2010s looks rather modest, but the documentary often reminds us of how devastating the opioid epidemic has been during last two decades. As Goldin and her fellow activists continued to fight more, more people came out with each own story to tell, and one of the most powerful moments in the documentary comes from when several persons give their painfully personal episodes of Oxycontin addiction in front of not only a federal judge but also the three key members of the Sacklers.

In conclusion, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” did a superlative job of illuminating its serious social issue in addition to giving us a vivid and engaging presentation of one woman who is surely extraordinary as an activist as well as an artist. Usually having Goldin tell for herself, Poitras, who previously an Oscar for “CitizenFour” (2014), lets us get to know and understand Goldin’s life and art more, and you will come to admire her more around the end of the documentary. In short, this is one of the best documentaries of last year, and it certainly deserves all those accolades it has received during last several months.

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1 Response to All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Inside her extraordinary art and life

  1. Pingback: My Prediction on the 95th Academy Awards | Seongyong's Private Place

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