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All the Beauty and the Bloodshed profiles activist, artist Nan Goldin.

The title of director Laura Poitras’ documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed announces the dual aspects of her profile of artist, activist Nan Goldin’s life. But, in truth, Goldin exhibits a through line to her personal and political work. In her own observation, she’s an outlier in her art and her protests.

In the 80s and before, she turned her camera on what at the time were fringe individuals plus her own sex life. Through examples of Goldin’s photographs and honest descriptions of her loves, failures, and struggles, including her own addiction and her sister’s suicide, this roughly chronological compendium captures her commitment to independent thought and social involvement. She pushed for attention to AIDS, curating the first art show in 1989 devoted to that topic. Furthermore, Goldin exposed the truth behind the Sackler name on many museum wings, rooms, and galleries, due to the money they’ve given from their deceptive OxyContin campaigns. For their activism, Goldin and those involved were snubbed and stalked, but undeterred channeled their frustration and anger into constructive action. To their credit, they’ve made a difference.

On a personal note, I was working for the Smithsonian Office of Telecommunications in 1987 when we installed the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, on the Washington, D.C. Mall, identified after 2019 as the National Museum of Asian Arts. At that time, the Smithsonian stated legally the gallery retains its original name, that this change does not relate to the protests. In the late 80s, we had no idea of the devious OxyContin promotion and deaths. In retrospect, the misrepresentation and promotion of that opioid and the museum contributions that engendered p.r. for the Sackler family were so insidious and intentional. Director Laura Poitras expertly interweaves that Sackler story into Nan Goldin’s commendable life as artist and activist.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed has already won numerous awards, is on many top 10 lists, and always qualified for the shortlist for this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature,

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.