Laura Poitras film spotlights activist photographer Goldin

Laura Poitras film spotlights activist photographer Goldin

VENICE, Italy (AP) — When filmmaker Laura Poitras went to meet with American photographer Nan Goldin about a project to document…

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

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

The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” was already envisioning “the modern-day horror story of a billionaire family who knowingly creates an epidemic, then funnels money into museums in exchange for tax write-offs and galleries to mention,” she said. But soon she realized it was only part of a much bigger story involving the entire life and work of Goldin.

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

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is in every sense an epic, weaving 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 biographical film or a typical artist portrait,” said Poitras. “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 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 only knew 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 pain reliever. Purdue has faced a barrage of lawsuits alleging it helped fuel 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 embarrass them in 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 accepting 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 against overdoses and people making money from overdoses.”

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

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

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


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