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The Family (2016)

3.4 of 5 from 45 ratings
1h 38min
Not released
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Australia, 1987. Police swoop on a forest compound to rescue six abused children from The Family, an apocalyptic sect with the motto - unseen, unheard, unknown. Its guru, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a beautiful Kim Novak blonde with an obsession for cosmetic surgery, has disappeared. For 15 years, police received reports of strange home-schooled bleach-blonde children. But it’s only when Detective Lex de Man discovers children as young as 13 are being injected with LSD that police intervene. For devotees, Anne Hamilton-Byrne is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. They change their names, sign over title deeds and produce children with partners selected by Anne.
They even adopt babies stolen from teenage mothers under her direction. At least 28 children are collected to fulfil Anne’s dream of raising a master race to survive the apocalypse. For five years, Lex de Man traces the money trail and discovers witnesses. He compiles 35,000 pages of evidence detailing criminal activity - illegal adoptions, multiple identities, false land transfers and social security fraud. He conscripts Scotland Yard and the FBI to track Anne and her husband on the run. In upstate New York they stakeout her Catskills property next door to the ashram of Swami Muktananda. In 1993, the FBI make their arrest, and Anne and her husband are extradited. But back in Australia, she hires lawyers to obstruct charges and the children are too traumatised to testify. Now 93 and with dementia, Hamilton-Byrne lives out her days in a suburban nursing home. A handful of followers cling to the belief she is a living god even as they divide her plentiful assets. Will she ever be called to account? Set against an international landscape of child abuse, this confronting suspenseful feature documentary uncovers what really happened and why. For the first time, both sides have agreed to tell their story, those who carried out Anne's orders and those dealing with the scars of their stolen childhoods. Inspired by 'Stories We Tell' and 'Capturing the Friedmans', this provocative feature documentary is a story of pain, resilience and a determination to get to the truth whatever the cost. The film inquires not just into the sect but also into the conservative community that allowed the Family to thrive. What is it in our nature that allows people to act against what they know is right? And what separates them from us? In a world that is finally talking about child abuse, The Family will resonate with international audiences. It is a true story that goes to a dark heart - cruelty to children. This stranger-than-fiction story deserves a big screen and an approach that asks not just how, but why was this sect able to flourish?
, Anne Hamilton-Byrne
Documentary, Special Interest
Release Date:
Not released
Run Time:
98 minutes

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