In Sickness and In Health
On All The Beauty And The Bloodshed (2022)
“The opioid crisis is, among other things, a parable about the awesome capability of private industry to subvert public institutions.” — Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Author’s Note: This essay contains discussion of suicide and substance abuse.
All The Beauty and The Bloodshed begins, as many documentaries about famous artists do, in childhood. But the film does not open with photographer Nan Goldin’s younger years. We begin instead with her sister Barbara, and the tumultuous events that led up to her suicide when Nan was just twelve years old.
As we move through pictures of the family with dressed-up smiles, shots of the Goldins’ neatly manicured suburban home, and Barbara and her baby sister playfully grinning at the camera, Goldin’s voiceover betrays the painful truths behind these nostalgic scenes: that Barbara had refused to conform, that she may have been queer, that she had wanted so badly to be loved by her parents, that she was constantly sent away. To be honest, this wasn’t how I expected a film about Goldin’s addiction recovery and ongoing activism against the Sackler family to open. Yet this is where All The Beauty and The Blood’s power lies, in director Laura Poitras’s careful drawing out of ghosts from the past to reveal how they still haunt our present.
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