The Family (2016)
There’s probably a better-crafted doco to be made about the bizarre doomsday cult of Anne and William Hamilton-Byrne, but Rosie Jones’ uneven but watchable The Family will do for now. It would take a lot to screw the fascinating story up: in the ‘60s, Anne, believing herself to be Jesus Christ incarnate, kidnapped a bunch of babies and raised them in seclusion in preparation for the apocalypse. Fans of docos like The Source Family, Jonestown and Waco: Rules of Engagement should be captivated, as Jones unearths the disturbing details of the Melbourne-based cult’s abusive practices (brainwashing, LSD trips, shock treatments). Featuring dramatic reenactments, home movies, taped recordings and present-day and archival interviews with former sect members, The Family appears comprehensively researched, but struggles to find a cohesive shape to its narrative, shifting uneasily between a victim’s story, manhunt thriller and crime exposé. Visibly traumatic recollections definitely pack a punch.