Hippie cult leader and Sunset Boulevard restaurateur Jim Baker (a.k.a Father Yod, a.k.a. YaHoWha) inspired a devoted following and no small amount of outrageous stories during his early ‘70s L.A. heyday. Apparently he killed two men with his bare hands. He may have funded his hip health-food eateries through bank robberies. It’s also possible he shot lightning bolts out of his ears, though this claim probably has more to do with his followers’ daily usage of what Baker called “the sacred herb” than any connection to reality.
Co-directors Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille dutifully chronicle these facts and legends in “The Source Family,” a documentary that sprang from a 2007 memoir that Wille edited. Access, obviously, isn’t a problem, and the movie sports dozens of interviews with the members who went from serving high-protein salads in Baker’s famous the Source restaurant (it’s the place where Woody Allen orders a plate of mashed yeast in “Annie Hall”) to participating in a utopian living experiment at a Los Feliz mansion that once belonged to the L.A. Times’ Chandler family.
Baker’s transformation from “spiritual father” to megalomaniac follows a familiar path of brainwashing and hedonism, distinguished only by the fact that members recorded more than 65 freaky psychedelic rock albums over the course of five years, music that rock snobs now prize as collectible. Now there’s a cult you don’t want to join.
“The Source Family.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Cinefamily, Los Angeles.