Archive for December 1st, 2013

World AIDS Day has been observed every December 1st since 1988, with the intention of creating a wider awareness of the disease. Every year the day is adorned with a theme, which, between 2011 and 2015, has been the long-term focus of ‘Getting to Zero’: the goal of achieving no new HIV infections globally.

A number of artists who lost their lives to AIDS including Derek Jarman, Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring, have come to be remembered widely and have contributed to raising the profile of the disease. However, many others have not been afforded the same attention; this puts their work in danger of becoming underappreciated or even lost. Howard Brookner is one such artist, who made early waves as a filmmaker in the late 1970’s and 80’s (directing three features) before losing his battle with the illness in 1989 at the height of his success.

Brookner’s first film was feature documentary Burroughs: The Movie (1983) about writer William S. Burroughs, his second was Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1986) about theatre director Robert Wilson and his third was the Hollywood studio film Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) starring Madonna and Matt Dillon. For over twenty years Brookner’s work has been hard to obtain, with the exception of Bloodhounds of Broadway on DVD. A consequence of his films going out of print was a severe lack of digital information on him, making him a lost filmmaker in the Internet age.

Howard Brookner in the Bowery, New York City

Now his nephew Aaron Brookner is working to bring back his films, as well as tell the story of his life and memory. Aaron describes the wider project to bring back his uncle’s memory as “a three part. It’s a release of the Burroughs film, which we’re aiming at the sentential, Febuary 5th 2014. Smash The Control Machine [now entitled Uncle Howard and due for release in 2016], which is the documentary about my uncle’s life story and then we’re doing a transmedia archival memorial project…

“Howard had a huge archive from his four years making the film on Burroughs, an archive around his second feature on Robert Wilson, 60 hours of video he shot of him making his final film Bloodhounds of Broadway and him rehearsing with the actors – there’s a young Madonna and Matt Dillon in it. He also kept a video diary and home movies compulsively, so he really documented his time…

“I’ve been encountering all of these things. You know, if you were to die suddenly all of the clues that you would leave behind… bank accounts, movie contracts, paper trails, phone cards, address books, you know all this stuff presents its own picture of a guys life, so I want all that to exist…

“I also want it to be a model for what can be done for artists that died of AIDS. Because you know about Mapplethorpe, you know about Keith Haring, but there are a lot of artists who didn’t achieve fame and had no family friends to look after their stuff. Well what happened to all their stuff?”

The brand new trailer for Brookner’s 1983 film Burroughs: The Movie has just recently been released and you can look out for the full film in 2014.

For more information on Howard Brookner you can find new, comprehensive entries on Wikipedia and MUBI, as well as his profile on Visual AIDS.

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