Best Documentary

Uncle Howard – Film Review


Uncle Howard – Film Review by Frank L.

Director: Aaron Brookner
Writer: Aaron Brookner (concept)
Stars: Aaron Brookner, John Giorno, Jim Jarmusch

The title reveals the relationship Aaron Brookner, the film director, had to Howard Brookner who was his uncle. The past tense is appropriate as Howard died just short of his thirty fifth birthday when Aaron was still a kid. However Aaron admired Howard enormously because he too became a film maker.

Howard’s parents, in the early seventies, wanted Howard to go to law school, become a lawyer and marry. Typical ambitions for many middle class parents for their children. Howard had other ideas. He went to New York University and studied film and art history. His graduation project was a documentary of the poet William S. Burroughs “Burroughs: The Movie 1983”. It took him over five years to make. Howard was a man of talent and he was also able to spot it in others. His sound man was contemporary Jim Jarmusch.

The first part of the film involves the tracking down of his uncle’s archive and what a trove it is. It was not a simple process. It contains all sorts of out-takes from the extended shoot including Allen Ginsberg who is in comic mode with Burroughs, the iconic Patti Smith and Andy Warhol- the glitterati of seventies New York. It enters into his finding love with Brad Gooch (who became a successful writer) when it was just becoming possible for young gay men to live in New York openly and confidently together. Howard enjoyed the full gamut of the gay freedom of the seventies and early eighties in the Village in New York. What began to happen from 1983 or so onwards, particularly among the artistic community of the Village, was the horror of AIDS.

Aaron was old enough to know his uncle a little bit- there is a glimpse, and it is a fleeting glimpse, of him in a crowd scene in the only feature film which Howard made “Bloodhounds of Broadway”. He loved him initially as a nephew does for an inspirational uncle. His pride and his admiration for Howard, as he makes discovery after discovery, grows in the documentary as a result of carrying out a great deal of hard and time consuming research in order to make this documentary is apparent. It is a labour of love. Aaron has brought back to the limelight a man of distinction.


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