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Much of All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, Laura Poitras’ Golden Lion-winning documentary, revolves around the extraordinary efforts of artist Nan Goldin to remove the name Sackler — the family whose company, Purdue Pharma, is accused of being responsible for the U.S. opioid crisis — from some of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions they have financially supported.
In fact, the film concludes with the news that, following several years of diligent and creative campaigning by Goldin and her organization PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), the Sackler name was erased from museums and galleries on both sides of the Atlantic and Channel, including the Louvre, Guggenheim, Met, Serpentine, Tate and British Museum.
Coincidentally, one of the last remaining institutions to bear the name, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, finally removed it shortly before All The Beauty and the Bloodshed had its U.K premiere as part of the BFI London Film Festival.
“The name is down as of about a week ago,” Poitras told an audience at BAFTA’s London headquarters following a screening on Oct. 10. “I was thinking that we’d have to do a protest or something before the screening, but now we don’t have to.”
Poitras explained that All The Beauty and the Bloodshed was one of her first films that relied heavily on archival footage, with her having joined the project in 2019, a year after Goldin had begun her actions against the Sackler family and its association with the arts. As such, she didn’t film either the protests at the Guggenheim and Met, which feature. But she was on hand to shoot the protest that took place outside the V&A Museum in 2019.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed made history in Venice by becoming only the second documentary in the festival’s history to win the top prize. Poitras said that it was “such a thrill” simply being invited to be in the competition.
“I believe that documentaries are cinema,” she said. “I truly believe that and that they should be seen alongside scripted projects. So I was so honored to be invited to show in competition. I do think that we shouldn’t create these distinctions.”
Although Poitras may not have needed to start a protest outside the V&A museum about the Sackler family, the Oscar-winner still found time to take part in another on Monday. Alongside a number of other filmmakers, she joined a London Film Festival-organized “moment of solidarity and reflection” against the imprisonment of Iranian directors — including Jafar Panahi, whose No Bears premiered at the festival — and other incarcerated artists, and to show support for the protestors in Iran.
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