For most of us, family means parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and cousins. But for one film-maker, family, for many years, meant a sinister cult.
Now Paul-Julien Robert has turned his harrowing experiences into a film, My Fathers, My Mother And Me, which tells the story of the 12 years he spent in the Friedrichshof commune near Vienna.
The community he grew up in outwardly espoused free love and communal living. But these hippy ideals hid a very dark truth: in 1991, its leader, Otto Mühl was convicted of child abuse.
To make the film, Paul-Julien was able to mine the vast videotape library that the commune had amassed to document life there – many of its members believed they were conducting a grand social experiment, and wanted to record it for posterity.
Paul-Julien’s documentary combines present-day interviews with the children he grew up with, as well as ex-cult members – including his mother – with fascinating footage from the Seventies and Eighties.
This includes clips of a group of naked adults rolling on the floor groping each other, interspersed with their blood-curdling primal screams.
The film, which won the Grierson award at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, doesn’t make easy viewing.
Robert didn’t even know the name of his father until he left the cult, and describes himself as emotionally traumatised as a result.
Other damaging aspects of life in the cult included the demonisation of the family and the separation of mothers and children, in order to ‘break down’ the concept of the ‘bourgeois’ familial unit.
‘Everything in the outside world was described to us as evil,’ revealed Robert in an interview with the Guardian.