Anne Hamilton-Byrne was beautiful, charismatic and delusional. She was also incredibly dangerous. Convinced she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Hamilton-Byrne headed an apocalyptic sect called The Family, which was prominent in Melbourne from the 1960s through to the 1990s. With her husband Bill, she acquired numerous children – some through adoption scams, some born to cult members – and raised them as her own. Isolated from the outside world, the children were dressed in matching outfits, had identical dyed blonde hair, and were allegedly beaten, starved and injected with LSD. Taught that Hamilton-Byrne was both their mother and the messiah, the children were eventually rescued during a police raid in 1987, but their trauma had only just begun.
With survivors and cult members telling their stories alongside the Australian and international detectives who worked the case, this confronting feature documentary exposes not just what happened within the still-operating sect but also within the conservative Melbourne community that allowed The Family to flourish.
Rosie is an award-winning documentary writer, director and editor. Prior to The Family she directed the feature doc, The Triangle Wars about an epic struggle over development on an iconic Australian foreshore (Best Australian Documentary, Antenna Doc. Festival 2011, Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund, NZ World Cinema Showcase 2012, St Tropez Cinema Des Antipodes 2012). Other documentaries she has directed include Westall ‘66: A Suburban UFO Mystery, an investigation of Australia’s biggest mass UFO sighting (BIFF, Fantastic Planet FF, Athens Sci-Fi FF, Globians Doc Fest) Obsessed with Walking, an exploration of psychogeography with Booker-nominated writer Will Self (ABC TV), Holy Rollers, a wry look at Christian pilgrimage amid the tensions of Israel (MIFF and SBS TV) and Visions of Yankalilla, about an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a church in South Australia. She has edited numerous documentaries commissioned by Australian and international broadcasters with recent credits including the feature doc – James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge 3D, The Namatjira Project, Queen of the Desert, Suicide and Me and My Brother Vinnie.
Anna has many years experience as an independent producer/director/ scriptwriter and was Executive Producer at Film Australia. Her productions cover all genres of documentary with a particular fascination with powerful emotional stories of investigative history. Extensive production credits include large scale dramatised documentaries with Writer/Director Peter Butt – I, Spry, The Prime Minister is Missing, Silent Storm and the Logie award winner, Who Killed Dr Bogle & Mrs Chandler?. Since 2008 she has coproduced Big Stories Small Towns, a participatory media project gathering local stories for a global audience and winner of the best community interactive at SXSW 2012. Credits as Executive Producer include Sundance finalist, Dhakiyarr vs the King and MobiDocs, an award winning anthology series with the NFB in Canada. She recently produced the Indigenous feature documentary Croker Island Exodus, a finalist in the Deadly Awards, Foxtel Prize and screened in Sydney and MIFF Festivals, FIFO and Real Screen Canada. In 2015 she coproduced Death or Liberty, an Irish Australian feature documentary and series, a musical journey into the dramatic and heroic lives of convict rebels.
A fascinating and bizarre story, beautifully told.
A damning, absorbing portrait of one of the most insidious groups in Australian history … an engrossing study not just of a specific situation, but of the psychology behind it.
Plenty of style and lots of emotional heft
Jones’ movie is a triumph. Bleak, terrifying, and heart-breaking, it is a powerful cautionary tale and an affirmation of the strength and resilience that people can be capable of, even in the worst of circumstances.
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