(Photo: Isis Aquarian Archives)
In 1969, Jim Baker founded The Source Restaurant, an organic vegetarian food joint that was frequented by celebrities like John Lennon and Marlon Brando and was the site of Woody Allen’s famous breakup scene in Annie Hall. Located on the iconic Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, CA, the restaurant was the “it scene” for celebrities and free spirits alike.
Before long, Baker had developed a unique philosophy and became the patriarch of his own spiritual commune, called the Source Family, that attracted young people from all over. Supported by the earnings from the restaurant, the group moved into a Hollywood Hills mansion together. Baker changed his name to Ya Ho Wha–Father Yod to those within the family–and he introduced them to a new practice of spiritual mysticism that combined sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
If you wanted an archetype for the ultimate early-70s spiritual cult, you wouldn’t have to look any further than this band of hippies and flower children. Directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos, The Source Family is a new documentary that explores the utopian lifestyle of Baker and his devout followers. It premiers tonight at the Sie Film Center on Colfax.
The film feels like a hallucinogenic trip, following the family from its roots to the height of their glory and finally to their disbandment that resulted from Baker’s bizarre death. It touches on everything from the formation of their own psychedelic rock band, YaHoWha 13–whose nine albums have since become priceless to collectors–to the spirituality of drugs and sexual rituals.
Soon enough, the group was experimenting in new and strange ways that even alienated some within the group, let alone the general public. Baker revoked the family’s practice of monogamy and married 13 wives of his own, one of whom was Isis Aquarian, the Source Family’s historian.
Originally a White House aide under President Johnson, she moved out to California when she grew tired of the political facade of life on The Hill. Over the years, she recorded and documented the commune’s rituals and activities, which ultimately contributed to the documentary. She says there was more to the Source Family than met the eye. They weren’t the drug-addicted hippies the mainstream media made them out to be. She doesn’t regret giving up her insulated lifestyle back east and still finds her experiences with Baker and the Source Family relevant even today.
“We were like the forerunners of that time,” says Isis, “A portal is opening and what happened in the 60s and 70s is happening now. We were going through our own evolutionary process, which I’m finding everyone doing right now. Young and old are coming together like one frequency, I’m excited!”
Both Wille and Demopoulos agree. During the filming process, they got the vibe that, overall, people were extremely grateful for the transformative experience. They were ultimately empowered by it.
“The influences of what young people experienced during that period can still be seen and felt today,” says Wille, “Steve Jobs experimented in his youth and now look at the tech industry, or the growing organic food industry. Both are fundamentally progressive. It changed the way we see the world and it’s helping us live in a more integrated world.”
Similarly, Demopoulos says, “It was a moment in history where American youth culture briefly looked like it was going to radicalize the mainstream. A tiny window of opportunity existed, and hopefully exists again, where people were fearless in their idealism to do something new and radical.”
If you’re nostalgic for the peace and love of the 60s and 70s, or you’re a new-age free spirit looking for some inspiration, this groovy movie is a must-see. Skip the drugs and approach it with an open mind; this film is an eye-opening, kaleidoscopic acid trip all on its own.
The Sie Film Center is located at 2510 E. Colfax. For ticket sales, showtimes, and additional information, visit denverfilm.org or call (303) 595-3456.
This article originally appeared in 303 Magazine.