A documentary about artist Nan Goldin’s fight to hold Sackler family members accountable for the opioid crisis is ‘a challenge to other artists’ to use their power to expose corruption, its director says Laura Poitras.
The director of acclaimed films, including Risk (about Wikileaks) and Citizenfour (about Edward Snowden) premiered All the beauty and bloodshed in competition at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
The film examines Goldin’s life and career and his efforts to hold Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, accountable for the opioid epidemic.
Goldin, a photographer whose work has documented LGBTQ+ subcultures and the AIDS crisis, founded the advocacy group Pain (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in 2017 after her own addiction to OxyContin. The group is lobbying museums and other arts institutions to end collaborations with the Sackler family, which has long supported the arts financially.
“As a filmmaker who has done political work, I have such respect for what Nan has chosen to do, to use her power and influence in the art world to demand accountability and expose this philanthropy really toxic that we saw with the Sackler family. . But they’re not the only ones,” Poitras said.
“This film is a challenge for other artists or people who have positions of power: how do they use this power or not? Here we have a legendary artist, who has chosen to risk her position in the art world to expose her corruption, toxic philanthropy, and laundering of blood money and institutions.
Poitras said the government’s failure to deal with outbreaks in the United States was “staggering,” as was the system that allowed a family like the Sacklers and a company like Purdue Pharma to “knowingly promote the drug that they knew how to be addictive and do this with the most egregious profits”.
Goldin made the connection between the opioid crisis and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. “There are 10 million people in the world who still have AIDS… AIDS phobia has killed so many people, and it has killed my community. And I don’t want to let another community die,” she said.
The opioid crisis has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum in New York announced that it would no longer display the Sackler name in its galleries, after joining other arts and educational institutions in ceasing to accept donations from them.
Goldin added, “My proudest thing is that we brought down a family of billionaires at a time when billionaires have a different justice system than the rest of us and their total impunity in America. And we’ve shot one, so far.