Movie review: “The Source Family” a first-hand look at hippie cult

By Columbus Alive
From the July 11, 2013 edition

The great thing about some documentaries: If you didn’t know they were real, you would never believe them.

Presented for your approval in this regard is “The Source Family,” a first-person account of a pseudo-religious hippie cult that blossomed in the early ’70s.

The founder of the movement was a man born Jim Baker (yes, he shares a name with the disgraced televangelist). Former followers recount details of his life that make him sound like Paul Bunyan, e.g. “At the age of 12, he was named America’s strongest boy.”

What started with a health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip eventually became a tight-knit spiritual movement, based on a hodgepodge of Eastern and Western mysticism and ample doses of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

“The Source Family” is an intriguing portrait in part because of the participants. Former members of Baker’s movement — some of whom still going by their Family names, such as Harvest Moon and Orbit — speak freely and often with nostalgia about these days.

While his increasing power over his followers certainly seems to corrupt Baker’s message, the downfall isn’t as dark as other groups the Source brings to mind, such as the Manson Family or the People’s Temple.

One man’s utopia is another man’s cult, I suppose. “Source Family” is definitely one entry at the Gateway Film Center’s Documentary Week worth following.