Lex de Man, The Family survivors, Anne Hamilton-Byrne
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A haunting documentary about the Australian LSD inspired ‘Unseen, Unheard, Unknown’ cult which unravelled in the ’80s.
During the ‘60s – and a particularly potent acid trip – yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne came to the realisation that she was a descendent of Jesus. Perhaps even a reincarnation of Christ himself. With parapsychologist Dr Raynor Johnson, she founded a Melbourne based sect commonly known as The Family. ‘Unseen, Unheard, Unknown’ was their creed, but by the late ‘80s Anne and her LSD based cult would be exposed after a police raid of her home at Lake Eildan, north east of Melbourne.
Anne and her husband ‘acquired’ numerous children – through shady dealings with cult members – whom they raised as their own on a diet of brainwashing, starvation and violence.
Often in horrific cases of abuse like this, the narrative thread is to focus on the perpetrators, leaving their victims in obscurity and robbing them of their identity. The Family, directed by Rosie Jones, sits down with several of Anne’s children, now all grown up, and allows them to have a voice. As such, very little time is given to the hows and whys of what Anne and her toxic group did. If truth be told though, what is there to say that would justify what happened?
Amidst the re-enactments and archive footage, the victims – whose Village of the Damned appearance in their youth is unnerving – disclose tales of unimaginable cruelty and, worse still, often believing at the time that it was completely normal.
In addition, we meet Lex de Man, the detective who battled hard to get Anne behind bars, as well as former and current members of The Family.
Haunting in its presentation, over 90 minutes The Family paints a portrait of a family that were tragically anything but, and the pressure and lies forced onto these children is apparent in every interview. Whilst most have families of their own now and are trying to move on, the conclusion is that these adults are still trying to work out how to regain their childhood.