The Family  is an Australian documentary that recounts the harrowing tale of a Cult in the suburbs of Melbourne led by a woman who believed herself to be Jesus Christ reincarnated.
But What Happened? Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her husband obtained guardianship of over 20 children, often illegally. By ‘collecting’ these children, Anne, under the influence of LSD began preparations for the post-apocalyptic world she’d envisioned. Anne is portrayed as the perfect antagonist with her villainous charm, which is said to have been used to coerce many well-educated, wealthy, respectable people to join the cult. Unfortunately, the film does not take us into her world and her logic, leaving her as an enigma despite being the most interesting aspect of the film. However what the film does give us is a heartening tale of reclaiming justice, by the very victims who were denied it.
What Do I Get From It? Many of the children give interviews where they discuss how they were kept from the outside world, beaten, starved and drugged. This film offers them the chance at a sliver of justice after the very inconclusive legal investigation. We listen to them explain how those stolen years affected them as parents today and how breaking the cycle of abuse became for them the most important takeaway. The film functions as an exposé on morality, it makes us wonder what pushes a person do something so evil? and how do these violent acts affect others?
How is it told? The film incorporates an array of media such as old videos, phone conversations, footage of locations and formal interviews. However, there seemed to be a limit to what the director could access and any holes encountered were filled with cross-cut imagery. At one point a woman discusses her desire as a child to live alone on Mars, her confessional dialogue accompanies a wide shot panning over a desert. When they talk of drugs we are given a fast paced color explosion of what may have been. Through this, we are taken us into the story in a way that the interviews couldn’t, for a moment we feel included in an experience that was not our own.
All in all, despite the scatter and lack of footage, we are pushed to the depths of our empathy from where we watch on as former victims reclaim their voice.