Movie review: ‘Source Family’ traces the half-life of a ’70s cult
Published: May 17, 2013 02:49PM
Updated: May 20, 2013 02:21PM
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"The Source Family" • A documentary about Father Yod (center, with his 13 wives in 1973) and his attempt to create a utopian community in Southern California. Courtesy Isis Aquarian Archives

Hippies didn’t get much more hip than the members of the California cult depicted in the fascinating and freaky documentary “The Source Family.”

It starts in the early 1970s with a Sunset Strip health-food restaurant that drew celebrities such as Warren Beatty and John Lennon to sample its organic goods. Those working the restaurant were all followers of Father Yod, a larger-than-life spiritual leader who taught a mishmash of religious beliefs and fronted his own rock band (whose music makes up the film’s soundtrack). But Yod’s beliefs — which include amassing 14 wives and preaching about an impending apocalypse — alienate some followers (including his first wife, Mother Yod) and draw attention from authorities.

Directors Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille use a wealth of archival material and get insightful interviews from former disciples, some still believers and other highly skeptical, that illuminate both Yod’s strange aura and the ’70s travails that made the leader’s message so attractive.

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‘The Source Family’

Opens today at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably R for nudity, sexuality, drug use and language; 98 minutes.