On the Yod 

The Source Family, a meditation on misplaced faith.

film_sourcefamily.jpg

In 1873, while under the influence of chloroform and laughing gas, writer John Addington Symonds claimed to have spoken with God. Although Symonds was understandably overjoyed by his time spent with "the undemonstrable but irrefragable certainty" of the Almighty, he was deeply shaken once he regained consciousness.

He insisted that "a violent deepening of despair" and "a sense of being mocked and cheated" stayed with him. He also posed this scenario: "Only think of it. To have felt for that long dateless ecstasy of vision the very God, in all purity and tenderness and truth and absolute love, and then to find that I had after all had no revelation, but that I had been tricked by the abnormal excitement of my brain."

I thought about Symonds' remarks constantly while watching The Source Family, Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille's new film. The Source Family may look like a Ken Burns-infused historical documentary about the rise and fall of a relatively harmless cult of personality in 1970s California, but the more these estranged Family members speak about their experiences, the more affecting the film grows as a meditation on misplaced faith. Every one of these kindly middle-aged folks bear the invisible scars of spiritual gamblers who bet it all on a cosmic sure thing, lost the shirts off their backs, and lived to tell the tale.

Two-thirds 56 Up and one-third Inside Scientology, The Source Family does more than just play catch-up with a bunch of hippies. The film's numerous interviews and extensive home-movie footage also tell the story of Jim Baker, aka "Father Yod," aka Yahowa, the Source Family's benevolent patriarch. A handsome, restless health-food nut with a Grizzly Adams beard and a late-night DJ's voice, Yod (pronounced with a long "o," as in "hoax") quickly gained an impressive following of young people in the Los Angeles area. His Sunset Strip restaurant became a celebrity hangout — and, years later, the butt of one of the best jokes in Annie Hall. Like many figureheads, Baker's journey toward transcendence got bogged down in the muck of his patchwork philosophy; his desire to transcend this world turned into a desire to stockpile a harem of teenage girls. (Typical.)

Other personal failures and artistic shortcomings may have led him down that less honorable path as well. As the soundtrack proves repeatedly, Father Yod was a self-styled musician entirely free of musical talent. His off-key caterwauling on such self-penned ditties as "Expansion," "Contraction," and "Penetration: An Aquarian Symphony," are sub-sub-Grateful Dead noodlings that quickly lose any aura of mystery or meaning.

Amazingly, his former followers, who were given (and, in some cases, still use) names like Sunflower, Orbit, and Isis Aquarian, continue to discuss Yod in hushed, reverent tones. The numerous juxtapositions of their present-day selves with photos and footage from their beautiful, long-haired youth is weird and thrilling; one memorable photograph shows the exterior of a Los Angeles home where Joni Mitchell-type earth goddesses in flowing white gowns sprout like daisies. Ah, but they were so much older then; they're younger than that now.

The Source Family
Special screening Thursday, September 19th, 7 p.m.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
$8, $6 for Brooks members and students with valid ID, free with VIP Film Pass

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Tags:

The Source Family
Rated NR · 98 min. · 2013
Official Site: www.thesourcedoc.com
Director: Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille
Writer: Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian
Producer: Maria Demopoulos, Jodi Wille, Holly Becker and Amaryllis Knight
Cast: Anne Marie Bennstrom, Billy Corgan, Bobby Klein, Damian Paul, Dave Nuss, Djin Aquarian, Don Bolles, Electra Aquarian, Electricity Aquarian and Erik Davis

Now Playing

The Source Family is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Wildlife

      Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are a couple in crisis in Paul Dano’s directorial debut.
    • Bohemian Rhapsody

      The Glossy Biopic Can’t Live Up To Freddy Mercury’s Legend
    • The Old Man And The Gun

      Robert Redford retires at the top of his game

Blogs

Tiger Blue

Tigers 109, Yale 102 (2 OT)

Tiger Blue

Tigers 28, SMU 18

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Defeat Kings 112-104

Hungry Memphis

Zopita's on the Square to open Nov. 19

We Saw You

Indie Film Fest, Grilled Cheese Fest, Adapt-A-Door and more!

Hungry Memphis

Little Italy Opening Downtown

News Blog

Seven Vie for Vacant District 1 Council Seat

News Blog

Group of White Women Test Mall’s No Hoodie Policy

Hungry Memphis

The Nine Now Open

Fly On The Wall Blog

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • The Lost City of Z

    A mesmerizing story of obsession in the Amazon jungle
    • May 1, 2017
  • 2017: The Year In Film

    Taking stock of the big screen’s good and bad.
    • Dec 28, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation