If there were a picture of God in the English dictionary it would probably look like Jim Baker, a.k.a. Father Yod, a.k.a. YaHoWha. With his white mane, vast beard, and amiable and incomprehensible gaze, the founder of the ’70s spiritual commune known as the Source Family looks like someone who could, as one follower insists, have lightning bolts come out of his ears. He epitomizes the spiritual mountebank, a readily parodied exploiter of people in need. But in Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille’s artfully executed and engrossing documentary, “The Source Family,” he can also seem like the real thing, a teacher and a transformer of souls.
As one point in his favor, he never hid his background, sharing his checkered past with his followers. He was a veteran, a martial arts expert, and a successful entrepreneur who opened the country’s first health food restaurant, The Source, which was a favorite of celebrities ranging from Steve McQueen to John Lennon. But he also had a volatile temperament, a taste for excess, and a penchant for violence; he might have robbed banks and he killed at least one man with his bare hands.