The eight brothers who make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble were unable to get to Austin from Chicago for the world premiere of Reuben Atlas' documentary "Brothers Hypnotic." Two days after the film premiered, the first-time film director has an idea of what it will take for him to feel like the film is out in the world.
"It won't feel real until the brothers come up on stage and perform after a screening," Atlas says. "We'll definitely do it in New York and Chicago, possibly HotDocs [in Toronto]." He'd also welcome a performance at hometown film festival in Montclair, N.J.
The film chronicles the unique ensemble, educated in daily practices led by their father, the jazz trumpeter Philip Cohran, and their initial notoriety that was gained from playing on the streets of Chicago and Manhattan. They made their own records, pressed CDs and sold them on the street, determined to avoid playing clubs or signing with labels.
"Where I connected with them was the idea of these guys with an extraordinary amount of talent and purpose going into the music industry in a totally anti-establishment way," Atlas says, who delayed becoming a laywer when he began shooting them in late 2007 and wrapped in late 2011. "They're being handed these values I related to from my parents, sort of '60s ideals. I hesitate to say that because it seems trite, but it's trying to figure out how to handle that value system now as sons, brothers, fathers."
The film chronicles the band receiving an offer from Atlantic Records that they rejected, global tours and media coverage in multiple languages, a project with Mos Def, and a recording with their father. They fight as brothers are wont to do, yet ultimately create music that they see as genre-defying, music that borrows from their father, hip-hop, traditional jazz, gospel, blues and Chicago R&B greats such as Curtis Mayfield.
The future of the film is unclear, but due to its funding through ITVS (Independent Television Service) and PBS, it is expected to wind up screening on the latter. No decision has been made as to whether it will fall under one of the station's documentary banners.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, meanwhile, continues to work on a new album, and is exploring how it might be released. It's highly likely that the documentary and album will come out around the same time.