I closed out the second San Francisco International Film Festival weekend with another documentary. This one wasn’t about our horrifying future, but our wild past.
B+ The Source
You’d expect a documentary about an early 70s LA-based cult and hippy commune, centered around a charismatic leader, to be an exposé–names like Charles Manson and Jim Jones come to mind. But The Source is a surprisingly balanced view of Jim Baker’s "family," the Source. Told almost entirely from the point of view of former commune members, the film paints a largely nostalgic picture of early new age spirituality and anti-materialistic idealism. But while it paints Baker as a truly holy man whose insights improved the lives of his followers, it also shows how his megalomania and his libido compromised and hurt the family. Structured like a three-act narrative feature, The Source tells its story efficiently and engagingly. If you’re interested in alternative lifestyles or new religions, or are just nostalgic for the Age of Aquarius, you’ll want to catch this one.
After the screening, directors Jodi Wille and Maria Demopolous, plus several veterans of the Source family, came up for Q&A. The veterans still refer to Baker as "Father."
A few of their choice comments:
- "We had a three-hour cut. It was really hard to shorten it. We had to cut out characters. The bonus DVD will be very special."
- On the mental health of the children born in the commune: "The children were treated very well in the family. I haven’t heard of any problems with the kids. No more than usual."
- "It wasn’t all perfect, but it was the most amazing experience of my life, and it changed my life for the better."
- [Baker] fit very much the Jungian hero archetype.
I saw the last festival screening. However, The Source is on the festival’s list of films that will likely receive a theatrical release.