A documentary about the Sacklers and the opioid crisis


“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” plays at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, March 3. Directed by Oscarwinning filmmaker Laura Poitras, this documentary has been nominated for the Oscars’ Best Documentary Feature Film. Poitras won the Academy Award for her documentary “Citizenfour” (2014), which concerns the notorious Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents from the National Security Agency. Poitras also received an Oscar nomination for “My Country, My Country” (2006), about the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” describes the story of celebrated artist and activist Nan Goldin, using slideshows, interviews, photography, and archival footage. Goldin demonstrates the Sackler family’s responsibility for the opioid crisis. Overdoses are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. This film won the Venice International Film Festival’s Golden Lion, only the second documentary to win Venice’s top prize. At the 2022 New York Film Festival, Goldin in addition designed two official posters for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.”

Portraying Goldin’s life and career as a photographer, the film describes how she accused Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, of being responsible for the opioid epidemic through the over-prescription of the addictive pain-killing drug oxycontin. The Sacklers were accused of directing their pharmaceutical company to employ a deceptive marketing campaign that minimized the health dangers of addictive pharmaceutical drugs. In 2021 the Sacklers paid some $5.5 billion, one of the largest fines ever levied against a pharmaceutical company and its owners for misleading the public about the addictive qualities of their opioids.

Goldin became involved in the fight against opioids after she became addicted to OxyContin in 2017, then almost died from a fentanyl overdose. She founded the advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) that aimed at museums and other arts institutions because of their public support of the Sackler family. The Sacklers provided major financial contributions to these arts groups.

“The Beauty and the Bloodshed” is organized into seven chapters, each of which begins with episodes from Goldin’s life and is followed by images from her P.A.I.N. protests.

The biographical episodes reflect Goldin’s photographic series, such as “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” The P.A.I.N. protests include the first at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Temple of Dendur” exhibit in 2018, as well as ones at the Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre.

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” effectively employs the film’s visual elements, and it’s easy to understand its Oscar nomination.

Information and tickets to “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.