The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom SBIFF

The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom Reviewed by Zane Stull

The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom was an intriguing real-life character study. This is a great film about a really interesting person, a person I would enjoy meeting. This documentary film follows the daily life of a music publicist/agent turned scientific philosopher as he navigates a path to philosophical enlightenment through scientific reasoning. I cannot recommend this movie enough. It’s a “feel good” documentary that leaves you asking provocative questions about yourself and the world around you.

Howard Bloom is unique and open-minded. He is a mass of what most people would consider contradictions. He is “stop in your tracks open-mouthed” amazed by the unconditional love of dogs and he is a down-to-earth advisor to NASA’s space program. He made an on-line only connection with a gym owner in another country and then made this person his sole heir.

As a documentary, it is well-paced. I liked how they connected the segments of the film. Structurally it follows Howard’s philosophical beliefs as they feed intellectually into one another. Instead of following even loosely a linear timeline, the film connects segments by relationships between people or experiences that trigger philosophical insights in Howard. The film makes very specific shot and scene choices. Most often wide shots show the audience more information about the location of a scene. In this film, most of the locations are nondescript and unimportant. Wide shots in this film show larger groups of the people who associate themselves with Howard. The soundtrack is filled with wonder and uses synthesizers to create an audio tapestry to match the mind space of the journey you embark on as you go deeper into Howard’s philosophy. It is very well chosen to reflect the meditative, other worldly and serene attitude Howard has achieved. The film shows enough of Howard’s back story for the audience to appreciate the personal challenges he has had to overcome. Like the protagonists of several other SBIFF 2020 films, these setbacks have actually spurred Howard on to achievements he did not even imagine in his life before he was struck by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I wonder if this was intentional, an unstated theme of this year’s SBIFF or just a happy coincidence.

Many discussions are started in the film, but few end with definitive answers. This is refreshing for a documentary; most tend to suggest that they have arrived at a specific, objective conclusion. The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom allows the audience to contemplate his message of critical introspection without a preconceived conclusion in mind.

I appreciate how well the film shared Howard’s insights about the importance of opening yourself up to new experiences and relationships. It did an excellent job of communicating his well-grounded optimism. It’s good to walk out of the theater with such a strong positive message resonating and a little bit of Howard’s vision inside you. More than anything the film has inspired me to read Howard Bloom’s books so I can understand more fully how he sees and interprets the world.

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