February’s Online Short: THE BROTHER MIKE TAPES: 1985

January 31, 2017

Brother Mike Cohen has been recording friends and family for more than 35 years. In 1985, he captured an argument with his parents about cleaning his room that reveals his love of rock music, his hopes for the future, and his family’s deep-seated love for each other. The Brother Mike Tapes: 1985 is a quirky, animated snapshot of his story.

Dir. Mike Cohen, USA, 2016, 3 min, English

Q&A with director Mike Cohen

What inspired you to make this film?

I secretly recorded arguments with my parents during my high school and college years. I would play these tapes for friends and we would crack up. I thought animating these tapes would be even funnier, so I sent them to my college pal Rodd, who makes trailers for Hollywood. He wanted to try his hand at animation and made a cartoon using my real audio.

What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?

I only pressed the record button on my boom box and taped over some of my rock and roll cassette tapes, and then “pushed my parent’s buttons” to get some better dialogue!

Rodd had all the hard work animating, which he’d never done before.

Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?

I grew up in a reform Jewish home and used to tell my parents I thought religion was “stupid”. The only way they could get me to go to temple on a Friday night was the promise of an Oneg Shabbat, where following service there would be a banquet of desserts and I would eat myself sick.

What film/media has inspired you lately?

The live Bob Dylan 1966 box set. 36 CD’s of mostly the same set list night after night. The way he SANG and the way the band PLAYED night to night is a whole other thing. There are many variations from one night to the next and how 4 weeks later the songs sound very different. I love Bob Dylan. I have also been listening to live Billy Joel radio broadcasts from 1976 and 1977. The critics hate Billy Joel. He is one of my favorite musicians. I am also enjoying the Amazon original TV series “The Man in the High Castle.” The premise is really interesting.

What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?

Pet Charlie the cat at the local copy store, call the Billy Joel Sirius hotline and leave messages about how much I loved Billy Joel until he released “An Innocent Man” and then how GOD AWFUL his music became, shrug my shoulders at my wife, take my 4 year old to school and pick him up while holding a huge bag of Cheerios, listen to my vinyl records for the first time in years, talk to my biological family whom I discovered about 2 years ago, attend rock concerts, and complain about the cashiers at Whole Foods.

Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?

Delicious. I used to attend Passover at the temple with my parents (my Mom NEVER did Passover at home) and I loved the gefilte fish. I am trying to get my non-Jewish wife to try it, but when I suggest it she makes a face.

Inspiring communities to expand their understanding of Jewish life through film, media and dialogue. Presented by the Jewish Film Institute! www.jfi.org

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