“Uncle Howard” Is A Heartbreaking and Courageous Documentary



Title: Uncle Howard
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Posted May 5, 2017 by

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Howard Brookner was one of the most talented directors and interesting people that you have never heard of. A film director whose student film in college was a documentary on William Burroughs in which he followed the prolific author everywhere and gained his trust and friendship. An artist that worked with Jim Jarmusch, came up with the likes of Spike Lee and John Waters. Had his whole future ahead of him until AIDs cut his life short and took from us a true talent and wonderful person. “Uncle Howard” picks up thirty years after he died and his nephew, director Aaron Brookner, effectively tells his uncle’s story through his films that have been buried in Burrough’s Bunker, photos his friends and lovers had, and personal video diaries Howard shot himself. When you begin watching this film, you won’t know who Howard is. By the end, you’ll feel you’ve lost a great friend who lives on through his work.

“Uncle Howard” is many things: a compelling documentary, a heartbreaking story, an inspiration that you can do anything you want as long as you try, and the harrowing truth that AIDs has taken way too many people from us. We follow Aaron as he seeks out the people whose lives Howard touched, hear what they have to say about the man themselves, and how profound his loss still is thirty years later. We’re taken on this journey from when Howard was a young twenty-something-year old kid and his family thought becoming a filmmaker wouldn’t serve as a sufficient living. We see the countless hours of film he shot while following William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg around. We learn that Howard was a heroin addict, a determined young man, a true friend, and a brilliant filmmaker. His first big budget film starred the likes of Madonna, Randy Quaid, and Matt Dillon. He was on a meteoric rise before it was all cut short.

In the span of an hour and thirty-six minutes, we get to know the good and the bad about Howard, hear about his life through interviews with his boyfriend, Brad Gooch, and his mother who had to come to terms with the truth about Howard’s sexuality. Aaron doesn’t shy away from anything when it comes to his uncle’s life and, in doing so, makes Howard that much more infamous. By the end of the film, I had felt I had lost a person and artist that only comes around every so often and I had just gotten to know him. It really is a powerful documentary that I could watch again and again; bringing Howard back to life with every viewing.

While I was feeling sad about the whole thing, about how short Howard’s life was, I realized he lived more than anyone twice his age. He did the things he wanted, he partied, he loved, he created. I mean, he spent time with some of the biggest and brightest voices of the time and held his own in the same room as them. He left behind a story; one that can inspire others. It’s definitely inspired me and I have Howard and Aaron to thank.

“Uncle Howard” is currently streaming on Netflix.




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