This weekend the Cinefamily will feature a series of events under the banner "Welcome Space Brothers: The Films of the Unarius Academy of Science," dedicated to introducing audiences to the spiritual and scientific group, based in El Cajon, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
The program will feature the world theatrical premiere of the Unarius-made 1979 film "The Arrival" as well as screenings of its public access television programs and also include a costume exhibition, a pop-up reading room, workshops and a tea house.
The event was curated by Jodi Wille, who also co-directed the documentary "The Source Family," a look at another Southern California-based spiritual group.
"Los Angeles is one of the most significant centers for metaphysical activity and organizations since the early 1900s," Wille said via email.
Unarius – it stands for Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science – was founded by the couple Ernest and Ruth Norman in 1954 “to provide a higher spiritual understanding of life for the betterment of humankind,” according to the group's website, and over the years they have promoted ideas of reincarnation and personal healing along with the free energy concepts of venerated futurist inventor Nicola Tesla.
Along with self-publishing many books and pamphlets, the group also created a series of public access television programs to spread its beliefs and made home-brewed movies that featured remarkable amateur special effects work.
"I've never come across another spiritual group/community anywhere that encouraged so much creativity in the students," noted Wille.
"And I've never, ever seen a spiritual group that made films like this," she added, "that were all made from start to finish in-house, as process-oriented films - not made as entertainment or spectacle, but to support their own healing/spiritual growth process."
The group's filmmaking output was highly coveted among pre-Internet underground videotape-trading circles, and the opportunity to see their work in a theater is a rare one.
And while even the most open-minded person will likely still find at least something vaguely ridiculous in the ideas and teachings of groups such as the Unarians, it also takes a truly cold-hearted cynic to not see past the rainbow kitsch and connect in some way with something deeper.
"Their practices and beliefs, even with all the human flaws and melodrama that can come with these kinds of radical groups and experiments, offer opportunities for transformation, of the individual and ultimately the culture," said Wille. "But in a creative and wild way that is fun and exciting and will still freak out your parents."