Posts Tagged ‘Howard Brookner’

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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The filmmakers behind documentary Smash The Control Machine: Howard Brookner & The Western Lands (director Aaron Brookner, producer Paula Vaccaro and executive producer Jim Jarmusch,) have just launched their IFP Fiscal Sponsorship campaign, to help realise their intimate biography of filmmaker Howard Brookner. The website allows them to accept tax deductible donations, which will help make their fascinating and personal project a reality.

Smash The Control Machine tells the story of Aaron’s relationship with his uncle Howard, the director known for his documentaries Burroughs: The Movie and Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars and the period fiction film Bloodhounds of Broadway (which starred Madonna, Rutger Hauer and Matt Dillon.) Howard Brookner was an early collaborator of directors Jim Jarmusch (Mystery TrainOnly Lovers Left Alive) and Tom DiCillo (Living In OblivionWhen You’re Strange) and he worked with them as his respective Sound Recordist and Cinematographer on Burroughs: The Movie.

Aaron & Howard Brookner

Aaron & Howard Brookner

Tragically Howard Brookner died of AIDS in 1989 (when Aaron Brookner was 7), leaving behind him a wealth of home video and film material, as well as his professional body of work. This vast collection of materials is the starting point for Aaron Brookner, who was inspired to become a director by his uncle. Aaron plans to retell his uncle’s short but fascinating life, in conjunction with his own discovery of the archives. Given Aaron’s relationship with Howard and Howard’s work with Burroughs, Jarmusch and DiCillo, the film promises to be an intimate look at the life of a man central to the creative scene of 1980’s New York.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to aid the production of Smash The Control Machine, you can visit the official IFP Smash The Control Machine page and click Make a Contribution. For a short taster of the film, take a look at the intriguing clip below.

For more information on Smash The Control Machine please visit the official Pinball London website.

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Aaron Brookner, nephew of the late documentarian Howard Brookner, is currently seeking support to digitally restore his uncle’s famous documentary Burroughs; a portrait of extraordinary and infamous beat writer, William S. Burroughs. The documentary, directed by Howard Brookner features technical work by Jim Jarmusch (director of The Limits of Control) who operated sound and Tom DiCillo (director of When You’re Strange) who operated camera.

The official Kickstarter page for the project, where you can read about the project and pledge to support the restoration, describes the film thus:

Burroughs: The Movie explores one of the greatest American writers and thinkers with an intimacy never before seen and never repeated, featuring Burroughs along with many of his contemporaries including Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Francis Bacon, Herbert Hunke, Patti Smith, Terry Southern, and Lauren Hutton.  The film was directed by the late Howard Brookner, begun in 1978 as Brookner’s senior thesis at NYU film school before expanding into a feature completed 5 years later in 1983.  Sound was recorded by Jim Jarmusch and the film was shot by Tom DiCillo, fellow NYU classmates and both very close friends of Brookner’s.”

To watch footage from the film and hear Aaron Brookner talk about the project, take a look at the following youtube video:

The official cut-off date for pledges is the 31st December 2012.

You can visit the Facebook page for the project here.

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