Uncle Howard starts with the documenting of a man’s efforts to recover his uncle’s documenting of a man’s efforts and the story only grows deeper, more multilayered, and complex from there. It all begins with a young filmmaker in NYC named Howard Brookner, who spends five years creating an in-depth, in-person documentary on William Burroughs called Burroughs the Movie. Following this film, Howard went on to direct his first major Hollywood film; unfortunately he succumbed to AIDS before its release in 1989.
23 years later, Aaron Brookner, Howard’s nephew who idolized his uncle, begins a worldwide effort to find his uncle’s archives and fully restore Burroughs the Movie. This forms the beginning of Uncle Howard, as Aaron breaches the ‘Bunker’ to find the film’s source materials, talk with the films famous crew members (Tom Dicillo shot the film and Jim Jarmusch was the sound recordist), and meticulously resurrect this incredible time capsule of American culture and artistic creation.
From there we move into Aaron’s own journey to learn about who his uncle was as a person. Uncle Howard contains intimate interviews with those who knew Howard best and behind the scenes footage from Burroughs the Movie that show how Howard Brookner fit into the larger story. The film moves past its source topic, covering Howard’s life and passion up to and beyond his death. As Aaron dives deeper, he goes beyond Burroughs project and becomes the caretaker of his uncle’s legacy and memories. Emotional and profound, the film chronicles the life of an artist lost tragically young and honors and celebrates all that he was and created.
Burroughs the Movie itself was restored and released by Criterion on Blu-ray. It contains even more material about Howard Brookner and Aaron’s efforts to find and restore the film. I covered that disc on its release and it can be read HERE!
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.