Amid global crises, you might wonder how much difference one person can actually make. These documentaries offer a timely reminder
1. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
This intimate look at grassroots political action follows artist Nan Goldin’s deeply personal crusade against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. She became addicted in 2017 after being prescribed the drug for pain, and narrowly avoided becoming one of the half a million Americans killed by the opioid.
Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, had a business plan that centred on overprescribing opioids, orchestrating a crisis from which they made billions. They cultivated a philanthropic image by donating millions to the world’s top galleries, including those that collect Goldin’s work. Her group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N) staged die-ins and rained a blizzard of prescriptions from the Guggenheim’s rotunda. When the National Portrait Gallery finally turned down a million-dollar donation from the Sacklers, the dominoes began to fall, and the Met, the Louvre and the Tate soon followed suit.
This is an empowering work that shows the power of art to bring down Goliaths.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed premieres in the UK on 27 January 2023
2. My Imaginary Country
When left-wing coalition leader Gabriel Boric was sworn in as Chile’s president in March 2022, he was 36 years old – the youngest state leader in the world. Revered Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman was 80, and renowned for his depiction of the 1973 coup by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In this beautiful depiction of hope against oppression, Guzman follows the rise of the Estallido social – demonstrations that began with secondary school pupils protesting public transport fares. It was the final straw for generations living with inequality and a corrupt political elite, and grew into the biggest people’s protest in Chilean history.
It’s clear that Guzman is convinced that Boric’s rise to power is the dawn of a new era, and that the Chile he had always imagined is finally becoming a reality.
My Imaginary Country will be shown at Leeds International Film Festival (13-17 Nov)
3. The Seeds of Vandana Shiva
How did the daughter of a Himalayan forest conservator become the world’s most powerful opponent of Monsanto? This documentary tells the remarkable life story of Ghandian eco activist Dr Vandana Shiva, and how she stood up to the corporate giants of industrial agriculture.
The film follows the struggle between two very different visions for feeding the world. One is the prevailing model of industrial agriculture, reliant on chemical fertilisers and fossil fuels. The other is a vision that Shiva and her army of supporters believe in: ecological farming which regenerates both the environment and local communities, centred on soil health, small farms and seed sovereignty.
It’s an inspiring dive into a thriving movement whose ideas are becoming increasingly prominent.
Request a community screening via vandanashivamovie.com
Main image: A scene from All the Beauty and the Bloodshed