All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022) won the Golden Lion at Venice International Film Festival this past weekend. (photos courtesy New York Film Festival)

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Laura Poitras’s 2022 documentary about the life and work of artist and activist Nan Goldin, was awarded the Golden Lion at the 79th Venice International Film Festival. The film premiered September 3.

Poitras’s documentary is only the second ever representing that category to win the prestigious top prize at Venice. The film follows Goldin’s fight to frustrate the Sacklers’ attempts to artwash their reputations as chief architects of the opioid epidemic in the United States and her own struggle with opioid addiction, as well as her rise to fame as a photographer and artist. Goldin, who is a producer of the documentary, narrates it with her own recollections of suburban childhood, grief in the aftermath of her sister’s death, and the New York artistic community’s response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The documentary includes interviews, rare footage of Goldin’s activism as part of PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) Sackler, and images from her slideshows and photography. 

In Poitras’s acceptance speech, the filmmaker expressed gratitude to the festival for recognizing that “documentary is cinema.” She also called Goldin’s activism against the “ruthless” Sackler family “courageous,” adding that she had “never met anyone like Nan.”

Laura Poitras said that Goldin’s “art and vision” have inspired her work.

Neon acquired North American distribution rights to All the Beauty and the Bloodshed in late August, and the film is set to hit theaters in the fall with a subsequent digital release. The film will premiere in New York as part of the New York Film Festival on October 7, where it was selected to be the centerpiece of the festival. Goldin was also tapped to design the official poster for the New York Film Festival (NYFF), which is in its 60th anniversary year. Previous artists who have designed NYFF posters include Larry Rivers and Kara Walker.

Poitras is known also for directing Citizenfour, a 2014 documentary on Edward Snowden, and for her work as a founding editor at the Intercept, a nonprofit news organization launched in 2014 with a reputation for adversarial journalism. 

“Nan’s art and vision has inspired my work for years, and it has influenced generations of filmmakers,” Poitras said in a statement. The release of the documentary will coincide with a new landmark retrospective of Nan Goldin’s work opening at Moderna Museet in Stockholm on October 29. 

Jasmine Liu is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied anthropology and mathematics at Stanford University.