SXSW 2012: ‘The Source’ an admirably even-handed look at ’70s life on the fringes

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The Source
Directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos
USA, 2012

The Source family was a commune which developed out of a natural food restaurant off of the Sunset Strip in the 70s. Led by the enigmatic Father Yod, the Source family developed from a rag-tag group of young hippies to a cultish spiritual group with inclinations toward Psychedelic rock to nearly 150 members living in one mansion together. Straddling the era between hippie fanaticism and hippie disenchantment, the Source family was short-lived, but it went through an astounding level of growth and development. And it was all documented by the Source historian.

The archival footage is outstanding, and is enough to heartily recommend this film. In fact, the scenes capturing the birth of the first Source child and a High School Source band performance are reason enough to seek the movie out. But what really makes this documentary a special endeavour are the in depth interviews with ex-members. It’s easy to appreciate a document of bizarre 70s era experiment, but it’s harder to remember that most involved have since grown up into functioning adults. The film essentially follows members from their indoctrination via employment at the (very) popular Source restaurant through the final demise of the family, all narrated by adult members with illustrative footage.

The film ends up being commendably even-handed. Many of those involved clearly think of the family as a very important, beautiful part of their lives, but Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos are able to string dissent and uncertainty out of the former members and provide a balanced picture. It’s hard to imagine leaving this film with a disgust for the irresponsibility or ignorance of the now grown Source members, but the directors also take careful pains to point out Father Yod’s flaws and the general absurdity of the whole prospect.

This is a sure-handed and revealing document of humanity on the fringes. Ultimately about the demise of a hard burning flame, the slick editing, fantastic soundtrack, and often hilarious footage make this doc considerable fun as well. Connoisseurs of outsider art, healthy food, 70s rock and roll, yoga and eastern spirituality, drugs, free love, or white flowing garbs will get plenty out of this, as will all you folks just confused and obsessed with the human condition.

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