Back to the Source
Ventura Film Society closes season with fascinating look at 1960s counterculture group
By Tim Pompey 11/27/2013
The Source Family
Directed by Maria Demopoulos, Jodi Wille
Starring: Ahom Aquarian, Isis Aquarian, Father Yod
1 hr. 38 min.
It’s easy to forget how strange life was more than 40 years ago in Los Angeles. It was a generation torn apart by war and disillusioned by Nixonian politics. Under the influence of rock and roll, feminism and free love, many young people escaped to the Sunset Strip and chose to live under a new banner.
In the documentary The Source Family, the Ventura Film Society’s season-ending film, we get a glimpse into this left coast way of life. In 1969, Jim Baker, otherwise known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha, opened a health food establishment called The Source Restaurant on the Sunset Strip and for five years used it as a recruiting base. His followers (many of them underage girls) became known as the Source Family.
Director Jodi Wille first learned about Baker from listening to a box set of his music in 1999. Then, she saw a student film that interviewed some of the actual Source Family members. “I was struck by how intelligent, charming and self-aware the family members seemed,” she said, “and at that point I felt I had to track them down.”
In 2007, she helped edit a book written by former family members Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian called The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wha 13 and the Source Family. Eventually, Wille and her friend and colleague Maria Demopoulos decided to direct a full-scale documentary.
Demopoulos elaborated on the charisma that drew people to Baker. “From the time he was a young boy, he was a heroic mythic figure,” she explained. “A war hero, a successful restaurateur, a martial arts expert, everything that he put his mind to, he succeeded at.”
But Baker also had a dark past filled with violence and drug use. When he lost a partnership in his chain of restaurants in the mid 1960s, he decided to start over and focus on his spiritual development.
Demopoulos believes the success of the Source Family reflected a crucial moment when a young generation flooded the Sunset Strip just as the power of rock stardom and New Age thinking converged. “I think it was sort of a perfect storm,” she said. “A lot of his followers were seekers, trying to find an alternative to what was being told to them by an older generation.”
You can sense Baker’s charisma in the film’s opening frames. As the camera rests on his striking face, one member testifies how “his eyes burned into them.” Another swore that she saw “lightning bolts coming out of his ears.” Still another called the Source Family “the most interesting game in town.”
No surprise then that, after Baker purchased a Beverly Hills mansion, filled it with beautiful women and declared marijuana to be spiritual, the family rapidly expanded. And with Baker free to make up his own rules, life in the family continued to grow stranger by the day.
For Ventura Film Society director Lorenzo DeStefano, The Source Family brought back some memories of his early days in the film industry. “When I first moved to L.A. in 1978 as a young filmmaker, I ate at The Source,” he said. “So when I heard about this film, it sort of took me back to that time.”
He believes that this particular closing night film represents exactly what the VFS strives to bring to the screen. “It was a good way to end the season,” he noted. “We opened with The Blue Lagoon and we’re closing with The Source Family. I like that.”
The Source Family will be shown on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 6:15 p.m. at the Century 10 Theater in downtown Ventura. Wille and Demopoulos, along with Source family member Isis Aquarian, will be available for a Q&A following the film. Ticket information is available online at www.venturafilmsociety.com.