Brothers Hypnotic

April 07, 2014


Reuben Atlas

Eight boys were forged into a band as children by their father. Now as young men, they must test their father's ideals against their own vision.


About the Documentary

The eight young men who make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are all sons of Phil Cohran, a legendary Chicago trumpeter who turned his back on commercial music to pursue astral jazz (with the “cosmic philosopher” of jazz, Sun Ra), proto-funk, and a passionately Afrocentric lifestyle. Cohran’s ultimate avant-garde work, however, may have been his own sons, who were raised communally on Chicago’s South Side with Cohran and their two mothers, complete with homemade clothes, veganism, and alternative holidays.

Starting at age four, the boys also joined the family band, learning to play the trumpet, tuba, drums, French horn, cornet, and trombone. Rehearsals began early each morning but, unlike the Jackson Five, Cohran’s sons were not bred for pop stardom. Instead they were taught to “create sounds to fuse with the body and heal the soul,” and to serve as an inspiration for the community.

Cohran’s “boys,” as seen in Reuben Atlas’s Brothers Hypnotic, are now young men in their 20s and 30s, and when they raise their horns, they make transcendent music that ties currents from jazz and funk to soul and hip-hop. But although working together as their father had hoped — whether playing in Times Square, negotiating with managers and record labels, or jamming with Mos Def and Prince — they find the unwavering ideals bred into them by their father repeatedly tested.

The film follows the octet as far away as Ireland as they tour and work to carve out their own renown around the world.

The Filmmakers

Reuben Atlas

Reuben Atlas is a New York-based producer, director, and non-practicing lawyer. Brothers Hypnotic, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, is his first feature-length documentary. He has received support for the film from ITVS, the Jerome Foundation, the National Black Programming Consortium, the New York State Council on the Arts, and NTR Dutch TV. He has also worked at Legal Aid, at a maximum-security prison, and taught English in Costa Rica. He is currently working on a Sundance Institute and International Documentary Association-supported film about ACORN, as well as on a film about the world of rare wine.

Full Credits

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Have you had to carve out a niche for yourself to escape a parent's influence? Have you collaborated with siblings on a project or art?


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