Laura Poitras goes where the fight is. The documentarian follows injustice wherever it may lead, whether that’s the Middle East (for her Al Qaeda expose The Oath), Hong Kong (where hunted whistleblower Edward Snowden sought refuge in Citizenfour), or the streets of New York (as in Terror Contagion, her pandemic-produced short included in the omnibus film Year of the Everlasting Storm). But her latest and perhaps most acclaimed feature brings her somewhere relatively foreign to her politically charged filmography: the past.
Today brings the first trailer for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which begins with a look back into Nan Goldin’s Manhattan. The legendary artist and subject of the film got her start in the downtown scene of the ’70s, a creatively fertile haven for artists and oddballs of all stripes, bulldozed by a combination of drugs, AIDS, institutional hostility, and the ravages of time.
The trailer shrinks the grand comparison made by the film to microcosmic proportions, tracing a line from the death of a cultural moment to the mass casualties inflicted by the Sackler family, profiteers reaping the rewards of the opioid epidemic. With Poitras and her crew tagging along, Goldin and her band of impassioned activists wage a nonviolent war on the high-profile museums and galleries still accepting donation money from the Sacklers and sanitizing their name by carving it into the arches of these temples to art.
In her review from the premiere out of the Venice Film Festival, Little White Lies’ own Leila Latif expressed some ambivalence about the film’s tension between its vital content and far-reaching approach: “The material and the life from which the film draws is not just good, it is utterly extraordinary, which makes it a shame that the resulting film feels less than a sum of its parts,” she wrote. “Each of these subjects would easily warrant a single dedicated documentary, but together there is a slight vagueness of purpose.”
If nothing else, the trailer conveys the compulsive watchability of Goldin on camera, a fiery and erudite iconoclast who won’t be stopped in her pursuit of justice for those too late to save. Equal parts galvanizing and devastating, it’s sure to be one of this year’s crucial films, nonfiction or otherwise.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed comes to cinemas in the US on 23 November, and then the UK on 27 January.
Published 13 Oct 2022
By Leila Latif
Laura Poitras documents US artist Nan Goldin's attempts to expose the Sackler family for their role in the US opioid crisis, but with mixed results.
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