Uncle Howard

DIRECTOR: Aaron Brookner

Bay Area Premiere

Gay filmmaker Howard Brookner epitomized the promise and talent of New York’s vibrant independent film scene in the 1980s. His breakthrough 1983 documentary about the Beat icon William S. Burroughs, Burroughs: The Movie, launched what should have been a long and stellar career. But three days shy of his 35th birthday, in 1989, as he was about to release his first star-studded studio film (Bloodhounds of Broadway, starring Madonna and Matt Dillon), Brookner died of AIDS, and he has been largely forgotten. In this captivating documentary, Brookner’s nephew Aaron—who as a child idolized his handsome, dashing uncle—reconstructs Howard’s unconventional life and work. The result is a touching homage that preserves his cultural and cinematic legacy for a new generation.

Aaron’s quest takes him around New York City to meet with those who had been close to Howard, including his NYU classmates and Burroughs collaborators Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise) and Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion), as well as poet John Giorno, keeper of Howard’s archives, stored for decades inside Burroughs’s well-preserved apartment, nicknamed “The Bunker.” Aaron’s treasure hunt for images turns up never-before-seen outtakes from Howard’s three completed movies, and conjures up his fertile life in New York’s largely gay counterculture, including glimpses of Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Robert Wilson, Merce Cunningham—a veritable who’s-who of Downtown creativity. Uncle Howard is a poignant family album and an indispensable perspective on the AIDS crisis and the groundbreaking film world of the 1980s.

— Chris Keech

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: D323


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