A freelance writer and copywriter for over fifteen years, Helene has written for publications and brands all over the world and couldn’t imagine herself in any other job. A shameless film freak, her first onscreen experience involved a trip to Avondale’s Hollywood Theatre at the age of five to see Yul Brynner in The Ultimate Warrior and she hasn’t looked back since. A big fan of documentaries, she has interviewed subjects as diverse as Henry Rollins, Jimmy Choo and Beyonce Knowles, and also has her own beauty blog - which can be found at www.mshelene.com - for the purpose of raving about red lipstick, big hair and other essential indulgences.

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FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD – told and untold

Posted on Thursday 10/6/2016 October, 2016 by

“Comic books should strive always to be subversive. They should represent counterculture"  -  Pat Mills, founder of 2000 AD and the godfather of British comics.

As a kid – and into my teens – I loved a good comic book. I collected various series over the years like Archie digests when I was under ten, and even had a large ‘Muhammed Ali versus Superman’ book that I read and read. Into my teens I got more into the likes of Love & Rockets, and naturally, the work of 2000AD and its iconic characters such as Judge Dredd and Halo Jones.

In 1977, IPC Magazines began publishing the aforementioned 2000AD, which at the time was called a “science fiction comic” by those less in the know. Before long, it would come to change the face of the industry. Not only did it introduce seminal creators such as Alan Moore (Watchmen, a personal fave) and Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman) to the comic world, it also had a profound influence on pop culture at large. 

It has been said that “2000AD dabbled with darkness way before it became normal for a superhero's nemesis to be their neuroses”, and it was definitely born out of the punk vibe so dominant in the UK at the time. Tonight’s film FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD is most definitely the long overdue documentary that actually tells the story of the legendary read, mainly through the eyes of those who were working within and alongside the unsung cult hero of the comics industry. The film was clearly designed to celebrate and pay respect to the comic phenomenon and explore its importance and influence on contemporary pop culture, and it’s a solid watch.

Through in-depth interviews with the creators, writers, artists and fans of the last 35 years, we find out more about what made the countercultural powerhouse comic tick, and it also examines the widespread cultural impact it had on not only the international comics industry but also in film, art and literature.

The documentary is the work of Paul Goodwin, whose main task appears to have been assembling an admirable wealth of talent to interview as the tale unfurls. With the exception of Alan Moore, Mark Millar and Garth Ennis, the big names are all present, which means you get to see Neil Gaiman waxing lyrical about the old days, Bryan Talbot (amusingly miming someone being impaled), John Wagner and Pat Mills, who us still displaying his preternaturally rage-y disposition even at the age of 67.

The most positive talk we get to hear is of the magazine’s legacy, and it also covers its less cool moves like unabashedly sexist marketing campaigns and frequent in-house bitching. This gives it a nice, rounded feel and a great deal more insight into the comic as a whole if you’re a major fan.

Nicely told, FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000 AD pays homage with aplomb to the comic name whose influence can be seen in everything from the post-apocalyptic madness of Mad Max: Fury Road to the Fallout video game.

Reserve you space on the couch and enjoy.

FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD premieres on Thursday 6th October at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel 39

CT FLETCHER: MY MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION - the man, the diet, the motivation

Posted on Thursday 9/29/2016 September, 2016 by Rialto Admin

“The body is merely a vessel for the mind; your body does what your mind tells it to. Command your body to grow, and it will obey. Simple, right? I think so! But some of you punk-ass mother**kers have the gall to come up to me and whine with shit like, "CT, I told my muscles to grow, but they wouldn't listen." Boo-f**king-hoo!”   CT Fletcher

A man who could correctly be called “the stuff that memes are mad of”, CT Fletcher is both man and beast. The six time champion power lifter and self-confessed “baddest motherf**ker of all time” definitely practices what he preaches, and in tonight’s documentary, CT FLETCHER: MY MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION he does one hell of a lot of that.

Brought to you by the creators of the awesome – and at times, terrifying - GENERATION IRON, it is a story that has been begging to be told for a while now. Deemed one of the most motivated and influential fitness trainers of all time, the film explores the pain, struggle and hardships that Fletcher has endured throughout his life. From an abusive childhood to world fame, Fletcher’s career and personal struggles demonstrate the real power that self-motivation can have on the human spirit. 

A former world champion power lifter who won titles in the bench press and strict curl, CT Fletcher knows what it takes to get big and strong. Unfortunately, in his younger years this meant chowing down on the kind of fast food diet that was thought then essential to bulking up back then, but which also may have contributed to having emergency open-heart surgery in 2005. Now in his late fifties, the YouTube sensation and gym owner talks openly in CT FLETCHER: MY MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION about his upbringing, health complications and rise to fame, and for the real enthusiasts there is also what those in the know term “hardcore” new and old training footage.

Fletcher was born in Arkansas but his family moved to Watts, California not long after he turned one. Then it was on to Compton, where he grew up. “Needless to say, it was a tough neighborhood and even tougher growing up the son of a preacher man,” says Fletcher, and his formative years certainly made an impact on the tough mother reputation he has today. “Strict is too subtle a word to describe the discipline required in our upbringing, spanking is too gentle a word to describe the physical abuse my older brother and I had to endure,” he has said of the abuse the family suffered at the hands of his devout dad. The extreme discipline and the severe physical abuse “was our way of life; it was all I knew,” says Fletcher, and his escape was the army. In the 80’s he discovered weightlifting and outside of my family, the sport became his life. 

This lead to massive achievements and crushing blows in his quest on the road to becoming “the strongest motherf**ker without steroids”, and he literally had to eat himself into oblivion. The fast-paced documentary covers the bodybuilding star’s descent into medical nightmares, and you definitely get swept away in the tale of Fletcher’s highs and lows.

But is CT FLETCHER: MY MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION any good? Well I enjoyed it, and if you leave your own prejudices about what makes a doco’s subject matter “worthy” or not at the door, you’ll be caught up in his tale before you know it too. The juiceheads will love it for sure, but even if you’re not in the business of #shredding I reckon you will too.

CT FLETCHER: MY MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION validates the fact that CT is an international fitness phenomenon, and for that I salute him. In his words: “F**k Average. Never be satisfied. Always move forward. Always grow. That's the last and most important commandment. Never. Be. Satisfied.”

STEVE McQUEEN – THE MAN & LE MANS

Posted on Thursday 9/22/2016 September, 2016 by

He was the ultra-cool male film star of the 1960s, who rose from a troubled youth spent in reform schools to being the world's most popular actor. Over 25 years after his untimely death from mesothelioma in 1980, Steve McQueen is still considered amongst the hippest blokes who ever lived, and he endures as an icon of popular culture.

Tonight’s film STEVE McQUEEN – THE MAN & LE MANS covers a point in his life where his midlife crisis and motor racing passion truly seemed to intersect, but for me it also demonstrated exactly how much the aforementioned “troubled youth” had grown into a very self-destructive man.

With a mother who was a prostitute and a father who was a circus stuntman who regularly beat him during his childhood in Los Angeles, McQueen didn’t have a great start in life (to put it mildly). Whilst still a kid he joined a gang and was sent to reform school for stealing hubcaps, and by 16, he was reportedly working as a towel boy in a brothel.


After being discharged from the Marines, McQueen spent time in South Carolina and Washington D.C., and worked as a getaway driver for bank robbers (weirdly foreshadowing his hit 1972 film, THE GETAWAY). The gig apparently ended abruptly when one of the robbers was shot and nearly killed, and after that McQueen became a pimp for a prostitute named Lindy and went into the business of flogging illegal handguns. "I thought I was making easy money - guns and Lindy. And no taxes to pay,” he once recalled. “But it never ends well.” Bizarrely this realization saw him travel across the US to New York to study acting. The rest as they say, is history.


Which brings me to tonight’s film STEVE McQUEEN – THE MAN & LE MANS, a story of obsession, betrayal and ultimate vindication. It is the story of how one of the most volatile, charismatic stars of his generation (at one point reportedly the highest paid actor in Hollywood) seemingly lost everything he held dear (even his marriage), in the pursuit of his dream, yet nevertheless followed it to the end. The film is a weird and sad watch, and an air of solemnity hangs over the tale of the film he took on in 1970 at the height of his celebrity prestige. It is clear from the outset that the film was something between a vanity project and a midlife crisis. McQueen could never decide on a script or story, and the movie went insanely over budget as his hand-selected team of professional drivers risked their necks shooting hours and hours of ambient race footage.


His passion for his sport and representing it on film is palpable, but scenes in the movie involving his children and then wife, Neile Adams are heartbreaking. It is also interesting – and terrifying – to see the times in which he lived and circles in which he moved, including a Manson Family connection. In Hollywood in the ‘60s, McQueen was a regular at the Whisky a Go Go, where he eventually met celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring. The pair soon hooked up with a beautiful young starlet named Sharon Tate there, and the trio engaged in drug and booze-fueled threesomes, reportedly even after she married director Roman Polanski. In the film we learn that McQueen was supposed to have dinner at Polanski and Tate’s house on the night Tate and Sebring were murdered by Charles Manson and his gang in 1969, but he canceled at the last minute. He later learned he’d been dangerously high on Manson’s “Death List” and this pushed an already paranoid, drug dependant man into near psychosis. After the close call, McQueen renewed his gun license and began carrying a concealed, loaded Magnum pistol at all times, which could have been disastrous considering his temper. He apparently even pulled the gun on wife Adams and demanded to know if she’d ever had an affair, which was rich coming from a bloke who while married to Ali MacGraw maintained a suite at the Beverly Wilshire in L.A. just for quickies.


Years later in 1978, McQueen developed a persistent cough that wouldn't go away. He quit smoking and underwent antibiotic treatments without improvement. Shortness of breath grew more pronounced and a biopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure for which there is no known cure. The asbestos was thought to have been in the protective suits worn in his race car driving days, and the star later gave a medical interview in which he believed that asbestos used in movie sound stage insulation and race-drivers' protective suits and helmets could have been involved. Was it his passion that killed him in the end? The jury is out on that one, but this film definitely points to the effect that it had on his life, his loves and his sanity.


STEVE McQUEEN – THE MAN & LE MANS premieres Thursday 22 September at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

WINNING: THE RACING LIFE OF PAUL NEWMAN, one hell of a man

Posted on Thursday 9/15/2016 September, 2016 by

For many, Paul Newman was a blue-eyed god, a kick arse acting talent and a man who turned salad dressing into serious philanthropy. Also a notable producer-director and political activist, he can be officially counted as the person who had distributed more money - in relation to his own wealth - than any other American during the 20th century. How amazing is that? And those blue eyes to boot… But despite all of his success on screen and as a major raiser of cash for those in need, the actor claimed to be happiest behind the wheel of a racing car.


Racing legend Mario Andretti has spoken about meeting Paul Newman back in 1967, when the actor sponsored one of his cars in a race. He took the superstar for an obligatory spin around the track, and noticed Newman was “white-knuckling” it. But Andretti saw something else, too. “I quite honestly think,” he has said, “that captured his imagination.”


Tonight’s film WINNING: THE RACING LIFE OF PAUL NEWMAN (co-directed by comedian Adam Carolla) shows exactly how correct Andretti was. As a driver, Newman went on to win four SCCA National Championships, 24 Hours of Daytona, took true second at Le Mans (winning his class) and won multiple professional Trans Am races. The actor also owned Newman/Haas Racing with Carl Haas, and together with drivers Mario and Michael Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais, formed one of the most prolific Indycar teams in history, winning an amazing eight championships. To put it mildly: the star lived and breathed racing. To put pedal to metal bought him immense joy, and that is so obvious when watching the film.


Newman, who died in 2008 at 83, might have begun his career as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, but much of the last half of his life was dedicated to auto racing and he widely acknowledged it as his true passion. But it was a passion he came to later in life. He was already a big star when, in 1968 he was cast with Robert Wagner in a racing film called simply, WINNING. The hunky pair took racing lessons to get into their roles, with one star falling head over heels whilst the other was happy to take or leave the new set of skills he had learned on the racetrack. “[Newman] embraced it and took it right into his soul,” Wagner later told the press, and for his co-star there was no looking back. While Wagner was all-too-happy for their lessons to end, Newman couldn’t get enough. He officially started racing for real at 48, and he wasn’t worried about starting at the bottom. “He wasn’t racing Ferraris. He was racing Datsuns. It was something the average guy could aspire to,” Jay Leno says in the film.


Soon, Newman was forcing film producers who wanted him in their films to schedule his work around his races. He was seriously hooked, and his star power saw many fall in line behind him if they wanted to work with him. He also took up championing the rights of others to race when and where they wanted, including one driver in particular who we meet in the film. Newman used his clout to level the playing field for others, and this included Willy Ribbs, a young black driver. In the film, Ribbs talks about how few people active within the sport supported him, and how the unbelievable amount of racist animosity from other drivers was palpable. Newman used his profile to arrange for Ribbs to be hired on a competitive team, making him a pro driver for the first time in his life. Ribbs later became the first black driver in the Indianapolis 500 and his indebtedness to Newman for his incredible support has lasted long after the actor’s death.


So there you have it - WINNING: THE RACING LIFE OF PAUL NEWMAN. One hell of a talent, one hell of a driver and one hell of a man. Enjoy.

WINNING: THE RACING LIFE OF PAUL NEWMAN premieres Thursday 15th September at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

MANNY: a look into the life of fighter – and politician - Manny Pacquiao

Posted on Wednesday 9/7/2016 September, 2016 by

It goes without saying that the sport of boxing loves an underdog tale, and you get served up a pretty damn good one in the life of Filipino pugilist (and congressman) Manny Pacquiao. Thursday's documentary about his life, MANNY may be verging on the hagiographic, but you can’t deny the pull of his extraordinary tale – and that perennially beatific smile.

The only boxer in history to win championships across an amazing eight weight classes, Pacquiao is most definitely a legend in his own lifetime, and one of my own personal favourite boxers ever. His perfect combination of speed, dedication, strength and straight up cojones has seen him take down men picked to annihilate him, and with style and grace.


As a film MANNY is largely chronological, with interviews and archival footage/photos used to introduce us first of all to the fighter’s early life growing up in poverty in rural Bukidnon. It follows him as he proceeds to kick off his career boxing for ridiculously small purses to help his family get ahead, and then on his road to life as a superstar in the sport after coming to the United States. We see him at the age of 14, when he moved to Manila behind his single mother’s back and lived for a time on the streets. There he started boxing for real and made the Philippine national amateur boxing team so his room and board were paid for by the government. In 1995, the death of a young aspiring boxer and close friend, Eugene Barutag, spurred the young Pacquiao to pursue a professional boxing career, which officially began when he was just 16 years old, stood at 4'11'' and weighed 98 pounds (7 pounds under the minimum weight division). He later admitted before American media that he put weights in his pockets to make the 105-pound weight limit.


A man who overcame insurmountable odds to become one of the most loved and respected athletes of all time, he is revered in the Philippines, where he sits in Congress. Despite massive US and worldwide successes he is devoted to his home country and still lives in General Santos City, South Cotabato. Tonight’s film MANNY delves into his political career somewhat, but I would have loved to know more about his policies and rumoured amazing achievements.

This isn’t the only area where I wished MANNY had given me more. Apart from the aforementioned vintage film and some pretty dazzling fight footage, it just skims over many topics seemingly ripe for deeper exploration. These include the clash between Manny's devout Christianity and his gambling and womanising ways; his promoter Bob Arum's purported role in blocking a bout against Floyd Mayweather; his brief career as an action hero; his rumoured steroid use and more. The film has been called “fawning” but I wouldn’t take it that far – just a little more detail would have made for a well-rounded tale.


What I did love however, were the little insights into Manny’s extra curricular activities (outside of clearly, gambling and cheating on his long-suffering wife), such as the pure joy he finds in singing. I loved the scene where Jimmy Kimmel recalls the time Pacquiao sang a duet with Will Ferrell on his TV show, and the associated footage is pure gold!

So in conclusion, despite a few passed over details and a terrifyingly banal, monotonous narration by Liam Neeson (why, oh why?!), MANNY is a great watch, especially if you’re a fan of the Pacman. It's nothing groundbreaking as a sports doc, but Pacquiao's warm personality and amazing story make it well worth your time on the couch.


MANNY premieres Thursday 8th September at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

I AM ALI – an intimate look at a very public man

Posted on Thursday 9/1/2016 September, 2016 by

It has been over 30 years since boxer – and living legend – Muhammad Ali first entered a boxing ring, but the immense frisson of excitement that greets his name has never waned. I personally have been a fan of the boxer (and the man) since I was a small child, encouraged by a boxing-mad dad who coincidentally was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at around the same time as Ali. I have never failed to follow his every move, but tonight’s unabashedly heart-warming documentary I AM ALI uncovered for me a multitude more sides to the man and I loved every minute.

An intimate look at the mind behind the legend, the boxer’s story is told in I AM ALI through exclusive, unprecedented access to the modern icon’s personal archive of 'audio journals' combined with touching interviews and testimonials from his inner circle of family and friends. In fact, much of the film is built using snippets from an incredible 80 plus hours’ worth of audiotape gifted from Ali to his daughter Hana, the seventh of his nine children. Heard publicly for the first time, these tapes find Ali talking to family members and close friends about his life, his struggles and his everyday triumphs. 

The end result of being able to hear them is that we become privy to some fairly life-altering choices, such as his 1979 decision to return to the ring. This turned out to be a fateful one as he performed well below his usual boxing standards, and suffered considerable injuries in the process. To be able to hear him tenderly discussing it on the phone with one of his daughters is most unnerving given that we now know the end result, and heartbreaking to boot. It is almost like eavesdropping on one of your heroes, only to discover how human they really are.

I’ve heard that Ali is the most-profiled sportsperson in history, which must have presented quite the challenge for director Clare Lewins when making I AM ALI. How would she break new ground - would she need to facilitate a big reveal, a fresh shock for his fans? Apparently not, as I AM ALI doesn't break any new ground, nor does it claim to. What it is for me is a celebration of a great man, and a brilliant introduction to the boxer, activist and super-celebrity if you don't know much about him. It has all of the expected historical markers in place, including his conversion to Islam and his decision to change his name, his major defeats and victories in the ring, his decision to resist induction during Vietnam and the subsequent loss of his title, his return to the ring, and his diagnosis with Parkinson's. It is packed with loads of never before seen footage, and perhaps only seems a bit average because of the great films about Ali that have come before it.

I AM ALI is hagiographic for sure, but it’s also beautifully made… and a great watch if you’re an unabashed fangirl like me.

 I AM ALI premieres 1st September at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel

THE WOLFPACK: the brothers are gonna work it out

Posted on Thursday 8/25/2016 August, 2016 by

As a parent, I can definitely understand the feeling that you sometimes want to squirrel your child away from the big bad world, and all of the stress, sadness and danger that comes with it. This is usually a fleeting feeling however as really, the world is where they learn about life and get to revel in its awesomeness as well as its hardships. You have to push them out there eventually, giving them the right tools for the job and valiantly hoping for the best. Peruvian-born Oscar Angulo clearly doesn’t agree with me however, and the life he created for his own children is presented on screen in tonight’s documentary, THE WOLFPACK.


THE WOLFPACK - which won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance – is directed by Crystal Moselle, and is sensitive in its approach as it tells the strange story of the seven Angulo siblings who, for 14 years, barely left their tiny apartment. Their American mother, Susanne, home-schooled her seven children: Bhagavan, twins Govinda and Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna (aka Glenn), Jagadesh (aka Eddie), and sister Visnu. “I went to school,” Susanne says in the film, to explain her decision, “and I realised a lot of socialisation was not positive.” Oscar, meanwhile, was seeking to protect his children from New York’s drugs and crime, but also comes across as quite the megalomaniac in his approach.


Confined to their New York apartment by their parents, the Angulo kids are left to learn about the world pretty much solely via their father’s (eclectic) movie collection. Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the brothers (and sister Visnu, who rarely features in the film) learn about the outside world through the films that they watch, and they spend their childhood and adolescence re-enacting their favourites using elaborate homemade props and costumes. This leads to some serious creativity (thumbs up to Oscar, Susanne and the kids for that, at least) and makes for the more lighthearted scenes in the film, which is a compelling watch.

The family was reportedly so reclusive that many neighbours in their block didn’t know they existed, and once the brood didn’t leave the apartment for a whole year. In the film we see home-video footage of some of the boys racing down the hall of their building on scooters, followed by another wearing skates. That hall was effectively their playground, and other children their age were never encountered. In other home footage, the camera zooms down to street level where the neighbourhood is teaming with kids walking round in carefully constructed Halloween costumes. Sixteen floors up, the Angulos are filming themselves making similar costumes and dressing up in them too, leading parallel lives. The two worlds rarely meet, which is just bizarre to believe but tragically true.


Their imprisonment via Oscar came to an end abruptly in April 2010 when Mukunda, then just 15, snuck out of the apartment and proceeded to roam the streets wearing a mask inspired by  - bizarrely – ‘Halloween’ villain Michael Myers. Clearly drawing attention to himself by being costumed thus, he was arrested, taken to a nearby hospital, and returned home only after being assigned a therapist. The family is officially on record for perhaps the first time ever. The other brothers are buoyed by his tales of the outside world and soon vow to join him - their father could clearly no longer contain them.


Soon the young Angulos were venturing out together, walking the streets and hitting the beach, seemingly oblivious to their otherworldly appearance. Their initial getaway garb of choice was ties, dark clothes and sunglasses accessorised with their amazing waist-length hair – it’s Reservoir Dogs, Angulo-style.

As the documentary draws to a close we see the boys’ gradual assimilation into the world and by golly, it’s not bad at all. Rather than mucking it up entirely they seem to be taking things slowly but surely, and are sticking to the creative pursuits they know so well. The kids are alright, begging the question: was what Oscar did really such a bad thing? That dear watcher, is up to you to decide.

 

THE WOLFPACK premieres on Thursday 25th August on Rialto Channel 39

THE SOURCE FAMILY and the rise of Father Yod

Posted on Thursday 8/18/2016 August, 2016 by

It's 1971, the world is looking pretty goddamn messy and new religions are on the rise. You’re young, American, curious and feeling disenfranchised, so the thought of finding your place in a new, enlightened community is pretty attractive.

This is where the Source Family came in, and where not long after their inception, they began to thrive. A true spiritual collective - a cult, if you will - of what ended up being about 140 members, they were a new age dream. Most of them were under 30 and good looking, they ate raw food and home-schooled their home-born children; they dressed in floaty robes and made “right on” sounds with their house band. At their head was Father Yod - a hairy individual who cruised around Los Angeles in a sweet Rolls Royce, was keen on “nice things” for the “life trip” and believed that money was “magical green energy that will produce anything for you instantly.” It was a winning formula for kids looking for an escape route, and they flocked to hear his every word.

 

The controversial restaurateur-turned-spiritual leader with thirteen wives and his own psychedelic rock band led his family through a life of enlightenment and hedonism that included 4 a.m. meditation sessions invigorated by “Sacred Herb”, sex magic and psychedelic jam sessions resulting in some very collectible records. His family of followers lived in a mansion and helped operate a popular restaurant on the Sunset Strip, serving vegetarian cuisine to musicians and movie stars, pioneering a national trend. For a while there he and his crew were on a winning streak, and reaped the benefits.


Before he was Father Yod however, he was Jim Baker, a judo master and decorated Marine. In the early 1950s, he reportedly abandoned his first family to ride to Hollywood on a motorcycle and audition for the role of Tarzan. He didn’t get the part, but he did eventually kill a man (in self-defense) with judo, then kill a man (again in self-defense) with judo and a gun; marry and eventually leave a second wife, cure a Samoan chief’s daughter through dietary remedies and rob a number of banks to fund his health food restaurants. Eventually he married a 20-year-old hippy and began holding meditation classes for a growing group of devotees, eventually completing the transformation into Father Yod. Pretty impressive CV, yes? And the reason why he.’s the compelling main subject of tonight’s documentary on Rialto Channel,THE SOURCE FAMILY.


Directed by Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille, the film acts as both an oral history of Baker’s teachings and The Source Family itself, and makes for an interesting watch. From the early scenes we understand the appeal of Baker’s teachings for sixties era, Californian youth – everyone is healthy, young and good looking, and by god, they seem to be having fun. Luckily, someone in the Source family documented it so we could share the sun-drenched vision, if only for a little while. 


Unlike similar stories, there are not too many disturbing secrets unearthed. There are hints of under-aged girls being initiated into the ways of womanhood but no one is claiming force, and at times babies, as well as adults, got dangerously sick due to Yod’s disbelief in hospital treatment. Things really start to go wrong when Baker moves the group to Hawaii and starts facing some significant grief from the locals, but I won’t spoil things for you by going into further detail.

People have called Baker “Manson without the madness”, and it’s fair to say that yes, a little brainwashing went on. Despite that, he was really just a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac who enjoyed peace and (free) love, and lived life to the fullest. For the full story, tune in tonight at 8:30pm – you won’t be disappointed.

THE SOURCE FAMILY premieres Thursday 18th August at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel.

PROPHET’S PREY, and the power and commitment of Amy Berg

Posted on Thursday 8/11/2016 August, 2016 by


To say that I “love” the work of documentarian Amy Berg would be a poor choice of words. Usually featuring subject matter that is incredibly hard to stomach, her films are amongst some of the most confronting being released today, and completely compelling. To say I admire and have utmost respect for what she does would probably be a better way to phrase things, as the incredible talent is one who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty when it comes to some of the most repugnant topics out there.


A chilling portrait of a megalomaniac, tonight’s documentary helmed by Berg is PROPHET’S PREY, a narrative of warped religious authority and patriarchal abuse every bit as chilling as her pedophile priest exposé, DELIVER US FROM EVIL. The Oscar-nominated documentarian delves into another story of innocence abused, but this time the lens is turned on authority figures in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints rather than the upper echelon of the Catholic faith.

When lead subject Warren Jeffs rose to Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, he took control of a religion with a very long history of polygamous and underage marriage. In a short time however, Jeffs managed to expand these practices and the power of his position in unprecedented ways. To say he took things to the next level would be putting it mildly - he bridged the gap between sister wives and ecclesiastical rape, befuddling the moral compass of his entire congregation. The finely crafted film examines Warren Jeffs' life and shows us exactly how he became a worshipped and adored Prophet. Even now he has a devout following numbering in the tens of thousands - many of whom would give their life at any moment with just one word from the “great” man. Despite a trail of abuse and ruined lives, Warren has maintained his grip on power.


Though Jeffs is now imprisoned, there are many children still living in dangerous conditions, and Berg has her doubts that many members of the cult will be able to shake off their leader’s influence. From his cell, he continues to correspond with his followers, issuing apocalyptic warnings of imminent natural disasters. It is frustrating viewing, but like many of Berg’s other works, it is a story that needed to be told.

As aforementioned, Berg doesn’t shy away from unpleasant subject matter, and is often the person willing to tackle the most insidious of tales. “Thank you for telling this story!” an audience member cried out just before the first screening of her Hollywood sex abuse documentary, AN OPEN SECRET, which is a title that begs for an expose.


The film premiered in late 2014 as part of the DOC NYC festival, and has faced significant hurdles in securing a release, a fact that Berg, who attended the screening along with some of the film’s subjects, acknowledged up front. “We get one screening,” the director reportedly told the audience after the credits rolled. “Maybe we’ll get distribution. It’s not very likely.”

The problem is the subject matter, which is amongst Berg’s most controversial yet. The film centres on the rise and demise of Den, an early digital network that was allegedly at the heart of a Hollywood sex-abuse ring. The movie features extensive interviews with Michael Eagan, who, subsequent to participating in the film, drew headlines for his allegations against key Hollywood power players like X-MEN director Bryan Singer (he subsequently dropped the lawsuit). Todd Bridges, the “Diff’rent Strokes” star who has said he suffered sexual abuse as a young actor, is interviewed, while Corey Feldman, who has spoken out against sex abuse in the past, appears in footage from prior TV interviews but doesn’t directly participate in the movie.

At time of writing the film has apparently finally received a (limited) distribution deal, and will be yet another harrowing yet essential watch. Much respect to Berg, and I can’t wait to see what she tackles next.

 PROPHET'S PREY premieres Thursday 11 August at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel.

One of the easiest to watch and most beautiful documentaries I have seen of late is on Rialto Channel tonight, and I defy you not to fall in love with it.

Called GAYBY BABY, it is an Australian film that follows the lives of four kids - Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham - whose parents all happen to be gay. As they each wrestle with personal change, the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality, and whether or not kids of same-sex families are at risk. It turns the political into the personal, and by focusing on the children rather than their parents, gives us a truly intimate look into the struggle for all members of the families. It helps hugely that the children are all totally wonderful too - they are funny, surprising, passionate and incredibly articulate, as well as some of the most self-aware young people I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching on screen.

The work of producer Charlotte Mars and director Maya Newell (who herself comes from a same-sex parented family), the film was widely praised and much loved upon its release, but soon attracted an absolutely infuriating level of controversy that rolled out a few months later.


The film was banned from NSW public schools by state education minister Adrian Piccoli and NSW Premier Mike Baird in August last year. It followed a front-page splash from News Corp's Daily Telegraph, entitled "Gay class uproar", which claimed parents were outraged at a planned screening of the film at Burwood Girls High School in Sydney's Inner West. Up to 50 schools across Australia, including 20 in NSW had organised a simultaneous broadcast of the film as part of a nationwide Wear it Purple Day campaign of sexual inclusion in schools. Ironically, Burwood Girls High School counts Maya Newall as an alumnus. Wear it Purple Day founder Katherine Hudson said at the time that she could understand the film being banned if it showed "grotesque sex scenes or violence", but it most definitely contains neither. “This is a film about families. Even for conservatives, this stuff would be easy to swallow," she said. Outrageously, NSW Premier Mike Baird said he did not believe the film belonged in the classroom either. "I think tolerance is a good thing. But I think there should be some parameters around it," he said. "This is something that can be provided but done outside class time."


The film’s creators now say that they are tired of the film’s controversy, which distracts greatly from its original purpose. "We were tired of it. We felt like there was something more considered we could offer with this film and maybe these kids could be that voice," Mars told the press at the time. "It wasn't about yelling, it was just about telling the story of these young people, who are incredibly compelling. I think that there's something powerful in that."

The Sydney Morning Herald’s film critic said of GAYBY BABY: “Use the words "children" and "sexuality" in the same sentence, and someone is bound to get upset”, and that seemed the only explanation anyone could possibly think of for the fuss surrounding the incredibly gentle and thoughtful observational documentary about children raised by gay and lesbian parents.


What it really demonstrates to me is that the parents in the film are very much like their straight counterparts, and deserve the same respect along with their kids. In 2015 this shouldn't even be controversial or headline grabbing, it should be a given. It seems though that it's still a lesson some of us need to learn – particularly adults.

 GAYBY BABY Premieres on Rialto Channel on Thursday 4th August at 8.30pm

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