Documentary Films | 2016 | 96 minutes
Stranger Says: A grainy elegy to a great handheld documentarian and a promising filmmaker, Howard Brookner, that makes you jealous of the artistic beehive of the Chelsea Hotel and hate the US’s official response to the AIDS crisis. Rare footage of the gay dudes in the New York art/lit scenes (Burroughs, Ginsburg, Warhol) plus old stills of a young Spike Lee, and that whole late '80s crew make this one a must-see. The shots of Jim Jarmoush as poof-headed AD behind the the clapper of Brookner’s films are amazing, too, as is everything he has to say in the doc. Unclear transitions between the past and the present make you feel like you’re an eye on the wall in those scenes, which satisfies. (RICH SMITH)
SIFF Says:Assuredly assembled through archival photographs, present-day interviews, and old video footage, Uncle Howard tells the story of Howard Brookner through the eyes of his nephew, filmmaker Aaron Brookner. When Aaron was young, his favorite relative was Uncle Howard, a young, handsome, and charismatic filmmaker who spent time with artists and poets in New York City. Before his untimely death from AIDS in 1989, Howard Brookner had directed three films, his first being the documentary Burroughs: The Movie, chronicling the life of outsider artist William S. Burroughs with unprecedented access (recently released and restored by the Criterion Collection). Gaining access to a treasure trove of archival film and materials that have sat untouched in Burrough’s old Manhattan studio, Aaron pieces together the life of his uncle, and in doing so, creates a well-rounded reflection piece of the underground Manhattan art scene in the ‘80s. Featuring interviews and footage of Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Spike Lee, John Waters, and of course, William S. Burroughs, Uncle Howard is a portrait of a man who lived life surrounded by friends, with unapologetic wonder and vigor—exactly as he wanted.
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