Perth filmgoers will be able to attend an insightful Q&A Screening of THE FAMILY with award winning director Rosie Jones (The Triangle Wars) and Ben Shenton, a cult survivor living in Perth, on Sunday 26 March following the 6.30pm session at Luna Leederville. Rosie delves into this seemingly implausible sect, giving voice to survivors and cult-members as they recount their stories. Tickets on sale and online.
A confronting new documentary that investigates Australia’s most terrifying cult. The culmination of many years of investigative film-making by Jones and renowned documentary producer Anna Grieve, THE FAMILY lays bare the inner-workings of this seemingly implausible sect, giving voice to survivors and cult members, many for the first time, as they recount their stories alongside the Australian and international detectives who investigated the case.
Led by the eerily beautiful Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a charismatic yet deeply delusional woman whose followers were convinced that she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, ‘The Family’ was an apocalyptic sect that flourished beneath Melbourne’s conservative veneer from the 1960s through to the 1990s.
Born into an impoverished family, rife with mental illness, Hamilton-Byrne, whose birth name was Evelyn Edwards, disowned her humble beginnings, re-inventing herself as an accomplished sophisticate and living god. Aided by powerful connections, such as physicist Raynor Johnson, and possessed with an uncanny ability to manipulate the vulnerabilities of others, this latter-day Svengali attracted as many as 700 followers during The Family’s heyday.
Assisted by her husband Bill and a network of cult members who worked within the health system, Hamilton-Byrne acquired many children – some through adoption scams, some born to followers – claiming them as her own biological offspring.
Isolated from the outside world and taught to believe that Hamilton-Byrne was their mother and the messiah, the children were raised in secluded sect homes located in the Dandenongs and Lake Eildon. Bizarrely dressed in matching outfits, with hair that was bobbed and bleached blonde, they were allegedly beaten, starved and injected with LSD by members of The Family’s inner-circle. It wasn’t until a police raid in 1987 that they were rescued, but the trauma of their formative years left its mark.
Now, as never before, the story behind this insidious cult, and the prevailing circumstances that allowed it to flourish, are revealed in this fascinating documentary that will screen at Luna from 30 March at Luna Leederville. Details here.