In 1961 Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a delusional and powerful woman, started a new age religion in Australia called “The Family”. This religion preached Hamilton-Byrne to be Jesus Christ reincarnated in the female form and committed many acts of horrific cruelty. Hamilton-Byrne raised and mistreated a group of 14 children by giving them drugs such as LSD and keeping them from society. Rosie Jones, the writer and director, and Anna Grieve, the producer, have taken on the mammoth task of bringing this story to light, which they do in an honest, heart breaking and wonderful documentary titled The Family.
This documentary was an honest portrayal of the true horrors of living inside a cult. Throughout the whole film there is haunting feeling that forms the foundation of its message. It leaves more questions than answers, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The call to action isn’t as clear as the damage has already been done but the film truly makes you think and question what you already know. The film exists to serve justice for those that were affected by Anne and her horrific beliefs.
At times, it was a little confusing in terms of structure. The timeline of events was not overtly clear and a little extra reading certainly assisted in understanding it. However, the film does not exist to be informative, it exists to gather empathy and understanding for the victims. It is easy to forget that horrible acts of cruelty are not just limited by location or race. Cruelty has no pre-requisites and it doesn’t care who it affects. These victims are survivors and they have made a life for themselves despite the horrific times they have been through. That is the true message of this film.
The most moving aspect is the sheer number of interviews Jones and Grieve conducted from the survivors, ex-members, current members, journalists and authority figures that were involved in this case. They give the film complete authority taking out any doubt in your mind. Without them, the film would not be what it is; brave, honest and haunting.
The Family is a must see for all documentary lovers who wish to sink their teeth into one of Australia’s most infamous new age religions. It is beautifully shot, incredibly well made and will truly make you think.
Following its stellar Melbourne season, THE FAMILY, will screen in Sydney from 30 March at Dendy Newtown, in addition to upcoming sessions at Golden Age Cinema which have already sold-out.