VENICE – “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”, a documentary about American photographer Nan Goldin and her struggle against the wealthy Sackler family, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
Made by investigative journalist Laura Poitras, the film intertwines Goldin’s extraordinary life story with her campaign to hold the Sacklers and their pharmaceutical company responsible for the opioid crisis in the United States.
It is only the second time in the 79-year history of the film festival, often seen as a springboard for aspiring Oscars, that the main prize has gone to a documentary.
The Best Actress Award went to Australian Cate Blanchett for her performance in “TÁR”, while the Best Actor Award went to Irishman Colin Farrell for his role in the tragicomedy “The Banshee Of Inisherin”.
Second Grand Jury Prize went to an intense French judicial drama “Saint Omer,” by director Alice Diop which debuted in fiction after a series of documentaries.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” has beaten a number of high-profile rivals, including a quartet of films from US streaming giant Netflix and well-regarded European dramas.
The documentary draws on many of Goldin’s images from his acclaimed slide show, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” which documented New York’s subcultures from 1979 to 1986.
But Goldin says her career nearly came to an end in 2014 when she became addicted to the pain reliever OxyContin, made by Sackler’s Purdue Pharma, which she was given after an operation.
Purdue Pharma allegedly minimized the addiction risks of OxyContin, helping to fuel a health crisis that has resulted in more than 500,000 opioid overdose deaths in two decades. It filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
The Sacklers denied any wrongdoing, but said in March they “sincerely regret” that OxyContin “unexpectedly becomes part of an opiate crisis.”
Goldin fought a years-long battle to get museums to stop taking money from the family, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to buy respectability through “toxic philanthropy.”
“I have known many brave and courageous people in my life, but I have never met anyone like Nan, someone who could decide to face the billionaire Sackler family,” said director Poitras as she collected the Golden Lion.
“He goes deep into his soul and shares with us things that most people don’t share with the people they’re closest to, let alone an audience like this.”
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Saturday’s ceremony concluded the 11-day film marathon, which attracted a host of stars to the Venice red carpet, including Timothee Chalamet, Ana de Armas, Sadie Sink, Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, Penelope Cruz and Christoph Waltz.
Other prizes awarded included the Special Jury Prize for “No Bears,” by Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence at home.
The best director went to Italy’s Luca Guadagnino for his cannibal love story “Bones and All”, and his young star Taylor Russell received the award for best emerging actor or actress.
Best script went to Martin McDonagh, for “The Banshee Of Inisherin”, which he also directed. He won the same award in Venice for his 2017 feature film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. —Reuters