3 Jun
A story of a radical experiment in '70s utopian living gone wrong

Caught a screener of The Source Family documentary this weekend, and gotta say it is one crazy ass story. Even as an Angeleno I had no recollection of the story of the man who named himself Father Yod, or YaHoWa, and essentially conned a bunch of really desperate teenagers into thinking he was God. So much of the story resonates with a Manson Family timbre, but Yod wasn’t an evil or violent man (despite the fact that he murdered a guy with a couple “karate chops” earlier in life), and the question of whether his spirituality was genuine or just a side effect of the massive amounts of speed he was taking (“black beauties”) is up for debate — but not really a focus of the documentary. As the producers write:

“The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle, popular celebrity hangout restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip; but their outsider ideals and controversial spiritual leader, Father Yod, instigated local authorities. Yod was a visionary health food restaurateur, war hero, and judo champion who had thirteen wives and fronted the now legendary psych band Ya Ho Wa 13. The family fled to Hawaii, leading to their dramatic demise. Years later, family members surface and the rock band reforms, revealing how the experience shaped their lives in the most unexpected ways.”

The story is fascinating, and directors Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille do a fine job compiling a ton of film from the era, getting prime characters from the Source Family to interview, and basically telling an intimate story of a “radical experiment in ’70s utopian living.” The good, the bad, the life, the joy, the death and the nooks and crannies of life in a psychedelic hippie commune. From the man named Jim Baker’s humble start as the founder of one of the first health food restaurants in America (The Source), to his epiphany and transformation into Yod to his eventual rise as a cult leader, the film neither excoriates Yod nor justifies his actions. Or existence. If the focus and theme is at all of interest to you, find the The Source Family documentary at your local art house theater. Or wait for the DVD, it’s worth you 90 minutes.

The trailer for “The Source Family” below…

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