TIFF 2022 Beauty and the Bloodshed-
Filmmaker Laura Poitras chronicles the life and work of famed artist Nan Goldin, including her protests against the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin.
The majority of people who’ve been affected directly or indecently by drug addiction is a long and troubling history. Beauty and the Bloodshed is a documentary film which explores the career of artist Nan Goldin and the fall of the Sackler family and their pharmaceutical dynasty who was greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s insurmountable death toll.
Filmmaker Poitras started filming three years ago as Goldin was protesting against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. For Goldin, the crusade was deeply personal because she became addicted soon after being prescribed the drug. Her dependency lasted several years, and she narrowly escaped being one of the half million Americans who have died from opioid overdoses. It’s doubly personal because Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, have used the billions in profits by donating to art museums including those that collect Goldin’s work.
We watch her lead the activist group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.) to hold demonstrations at the Met, Guggenheim, and Louvre. Remarkably, the galvanizing campaign has real consequences. Protesting has been around for decades, and the tactics used by the group of P.A.I.N. was effective and monumental. Empty Plastic prescription bottles, prescription leaflets for Oxycontin and blood on fake dollar bills to name a few of methods to get their message across.
Goldin reflects on her history. We learn the stories behind her iconic pictures and her larger-than-life late friends such as actor Cookie Mueller and artist-activist David Wojnarowicz. A looming figure is Nan’s older sister Barbara whose nonconformism and sexual openness in the early 1960s caused her parents to have her institutionalized, leading to her suicide as a teenager. Decades later, Nan uncovers a psychiatric report written about Barbara that contains the haunting phrase that gives this film its title: “she sees the future and all the beauty and the bloodshed.”