"The Source Family": A '60s Cult Minus the Mass Death

The accepted hindsight is that the hippie dream ended with the Manson Family murders in 1969, but that ending wasn't quite as apparent in the 1970s to the followers of self-styled messiah Father Yod, the subject of Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille's documentary The Source Family. Born Jim Baker, Yod was a Marine, Judo expert, bank robber, and confessed killer who went hippie in the late 1960s and opened the lucrative vegetarian Source Restaurant (the one in Annie Hall where Woody Allen orders the alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast) before evolving into a cult leader. As stories about California-based cults go, The Source Family is one of the least tragic, ending neither in mass murder (Manson) nor suicide (Jonestown), but instead more mundane disillusionment and heartbreak — especially for Yod's wife Robin, who never quite recovered from Yod's decision to help himself to a dozen other wives, seeing as how he was God and could do whatever he wanted. The Source Family is never less than sympathetic to its subjects, and it's appropriate that neither Manson nor Jones are mentioned until nearly an hour in; beginning with a minute-and-a-half slow zoom into Yod's intense eyes, the movie does not pass judgment from 2013, but rather tries to show how it all made sense in 1973.

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