Buzz about Be Known

A Very Selective Guide to FilmFest DC

Filmfest DC That Nearly Wasn’t Promises to Be One of The Best

Interview with Dwayne Johnson-Cochran about the new documentary Be Known

WBEZ 91.5 Chicago’s Afternoon Shift Interview with Kahil El’Zabar & Dwayne Johnson-Cochran

Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich Reviews ‘Be Known’:  A Daring Jazz Documentary Zooms in on Kahil El’Zabar

Siskel Film Center Official Premiere Announcement

Be Known on Facebook

Indiewire – “No-holds-barred Documentary on Kahil El’Zabar (‘Be Known’) Set for Special Premiere in Chicago in January

iRock Jazz – Live Interview with Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar



About the Film | Be Known

We’re at Cannes 2013!

Dwayne Johnson-Cochran will be attending the world’s premier movie festival, Festival de Cannes, this year to present BE KNOWN, his documentary on Kahil El Zabar.  El Zabar, a legendary jazz musician and artist, is hugely popular in France and Mr. Johnson-Cochran feels that the European audience and film buyers will be very receptive to Kahil’s music, message, and the story in the film. 

In addition, Dwayne Johnson-Cochran and Sergey Bodrov (Mongol, Seventh Son) have partnered on two films.  The first, ‘QUEEN OF WAR’ is an international co-production to be shot in China and India (produced by Mr. Johnson-Cochran, directed by Mr. Bodrov).  The second collaboration, entitled ‘DREAMS OF A CHILD SOLDIER’ will be directed by Mr. Johnson-Cochran and produced by Mr. Bodrov.  A fourth project, ‘LOWER’, co-written by Mr. Johnson-Cochran in conjunction with a South African film company, will also be presented at Cannes. 

‘Be Known’ is a feature documentary that explores the life and career of one of modern jazz’s best kept secrets: Kahil El’ Zabar. The film is filled with darkly comic overtones and highlights, among other things, El’ Zabar’s complicated personal life, and his path from celebrity in Paris to relative obscurity in Chicago and everywhere in between. From his relationship with the mothers of his six children to the dramatic court battle turned prison sentence over the paternity of yet another child, the film tells the story of a rare artist’s trials and tribulations through the eyes of filmmaker and friend, Dwayne Johnson-Cochran. ‘Be Known’ takes you on a journey to see the other side of genius; the mysterious intersections of creativity and individuality in a world where branding and sameness are the norm. It is in this world where El’ Zabar shines as a beacon of creativity, individuality, and innovation; an artist whom George Lucas once hailed as one of the most innovative people of the 20th century.

The film follows El’ Zabar and his band, The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, as they travel the country playing their unique, avant-garde style of jazz. Undoubtedly one of the most distinctive percussion artists in the world, El’ Zabar mesmerizes audiences with his unparalleled ability to play the Earth drum and lead his band with the fierce intensity, unbridled passion, and energy befitting of a man once called “the pied piper of Chicago.”

As a bandleader, El’ Zabar is fearless – effortlessly weaving a tapestry of music that defies categorization, but whose cousins include jazz, African, dance, house music, blues, and more. Throughout his career, he has experienced the highest of highs – sold-out rooms packed with people dancing to his music, lifelong friendships – and the lowest of lows – struggling to get that next gig to pay bills, a paternity suit, problems with the band, the pressures of fatherhood. And then: a miracle.

Indeed, ‘Be Known’ offers a rare glimpse into the life of this enigmatic artist. But the film, like El’ Zabar’s story, is far from one-dimensional. El’ Zabar teaches us that his struggle is not just about “making it big” or selling out shows. It’s about so much more. It’s about waking up and smelling, tasting, living the dream. It’s about defiantly overcoming adversity and temptation to settle for mediocrity or selling out to the lure of money and material possessions. It’s about inspiration and knowing that against all odds we will rise to the mountaintop even if it means taking the hard road not the high road. It’s about hope, passion, love, and so much pain. It’s about blood, sweat, and tears. It’s about our collective struggle as individuals marching to the beat of our own drums and the desperate pursuit of success and satisfaction. It’s about finding a path out of the darkness and into the light, of finding a way to BE KNOWN.