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Movie review: ‘The Source Family’

Posted 2:26pm on Thursday, May. 09, 2013

Unrated (nudity and childbirth depicted, profanity, pot use); 98 min.

Over 30 minutes of the historical/musical/spiritual documentary The Source Family pass before anybody uses the word “cult.” There’s no need to say it aloud. From the opening credits — a lingering close-up of a black-and-white photograph of a bearded fellow with long white hair while a singer croons “You are Jesus” — well, we figure it out.

But The Source Family isn’t your typical film about cults. Jim Baker was a decorated World War II vet, a muscular health food buff who killed a couple of men with his bare hands before finding his way into Eastern mysticism. The film captures, in more detail than is probably necessary, Baker’s journey from mystic traveler to cult leader. And of all the long, strange trips of the late ’60s, early ’70s, none was stranger.

He parlayed a career as a Hollywood health food restaurateur into a following of the young, the beautiful and the lost who wandered into The Source — his Sunset Strip eating establishment.

Forty years later, many of his former followers, members of his 30-40 person commune, still speak of their time with him with reverence and joy.

A cult film that doesn’t by design condemn the cult is an unusual thing, and filmmakers Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille take us through a bygone era of souls lost in a confusing age of street protests, a ruinous war, drugs and “God is dead.”

The film uses snippets of Alex in Wonderland, Saturday Night Live and Annie Hall to capture the L.A. vibe of that time, the health food/utopian cult connection, and how funny it seemed to the culture at large.

And they share blunt testimonials from his older and wiser former disciples, as well as those who never got over the experience.

Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas

— Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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