Dir: Laura Poitras | USA | 2022 | 116 mins
Laura Poitras’s (Citizenfour) devastating new film explores the life of seminal American photographer Nan Goldin, focusing on her efforts to hold the Sackler family – the owners of Purdue Pharma, the drug company most responsible for the staggering US opioid epidemic of recent years – to account.
More usually celebrated for her intimate, explicit, diaristic photographs of friends and lovers in the LGBTQ subcultures of 1980s-90s Boston and New York and the effects of the HIV/AIDS crisis, in 2017 Goldin began speaking about her terrifying experience with Purdue Pharma’s notorious painkiller OxyContin. Marketed by Purdue as non-addictive, the Sacklers not only ignored mounting evidence that OxyContin was, in fact, lethally addictive, but exploited its ruinous qualities for financial gains. Founding the organisation PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), Goldin began agitating, lobbying galleries and museums benefiting from Sackler money to disavow the family and its ill-gotten funds.
An unconventional biography, looping Goldin’s work and its themes in with her activism and personal history, All the Beauty… is structured in chapters bookmarked by slideshows that recall her most famous work, ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’. Investigating the pain and dysfunction of Goldin’s upbringing, and the way in which her at times harrowing, at times ecstatic work, rooted in that initial trauma, has always sought to bring love and openness to its subjects, Poitras’s film reveals her as an artist who has continually operated on the margins, telling a moving story about how she navigates her relationship with America and examining how its systems of power and profit affect individual bodies and lives.
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