The Disney+ (Hulu in the US) series ‘The Clearing’ is set in rural Victoria and tells the story of a dangerous cult named the Kindred. The narrative is split into two timelines. In the past, the members of the Kindred kidnap a young girl named Sara and try to indoctrinate her in their beliefs. When the higher-ups of the cult discover this, they immediately realize the threat this action poses to their community. But as it soon becomes apparent that they can’t return Sara to her family, the only choice that remains to them is to get her assimilated into the community. But when that fails, the cult leaders make even more drastic choices to deal with the situation. In the present day, Freya Heywood (Teresa Palmer), a former member of the cult, struggles with severe trauma as she brings up her son Billy. If the similarities between the Kindred and the real-life Australian cult the Family have made you wonder whether the former is based on the latter, we got you covered.
Is The Clearing’s Kindred Based on Australia’s The Family Cult?
The series begins with the following message, “While certain story elements were inspired by actual events, this series is a work of fiction. The characters, names, places, and events have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes, and no identification with actual persons (living or dead), places, or events, should be inferred.” ‘The Clearing’ is based on the 2019 novel ‘In the Clearing’ by JP Pomare, which indeed draws from the incidents surrounding the Family. The story that ‘The Clearing’ seeks to tell is fictional, but aspects of it are inspired by their real-life counterparts, and that includes the Kindred.
Both the fictional cult and the real-life one revolve around a philosophy that can only be described as a mixture of Christianity, Hinduism, and other Eastern and Western religions. Like her fictional counterpart, Adrienne Beaufort / Maitreya (Miranda Otto), Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the head of the Family, was incredibly charismatic. The cult believed that she was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ and the members of her inner circle as the incarnations of the Apostles of Jesus.
Like the Kindred, the Family was a doomsday cult that believed the children they were raising would inherit Earth after a global cataclysm. They also bleached the hair of the children so that people would think they were biological siblings. Punishments, food deprivation, and drugs such as LSD were reportedly used to instill discipline. Even though the children were removed from the custody of the sect in 1987 and Anne and her husband were arrested in 1993, the Family persisted, though according to one of the survivors, it had become a “toothless tiger.” Like Adrienne in the show, Anne was diagnosed with dementia, after which there was reportedly an internal struggle to ascertain Anne’s successor.
Otto had a personal experience with a cult, and that likely helped her flesh out her character. “I’ve always been really fascinated by cults,” the actress told MovieWeb. “My auntie was actually in the Rajneesh when I was a kid, and I’ve read a number of books about that experience, and I’ve seen a lot of documentaries on cults […] So, I sort of came to it from that angle, trying to create this character, but there was a lot on the page.”
The series indicates that Adrienne’s fortune, which is worth several million dollars, is out there somewhere. In the 1980s, the authorities speculated Anne was worth about $50 million. She passed away on June 13, 2019, at age 97. What bothered Otto most about the story is the mistreatment of the children, Which, as shown above, the Kindred and the Family, have in common. “Children don’t make the choices to be involved in these things,” Otto told UPI. “For these kids in the story to not have unconditional love, to not be loved in that way, is so pivotal and so hard to recover from. The nice thing is in this story we do get there in the end.”
Read More: Is The Clearing’s Freya Heywood and Adrienne Beaufort Based on Real People?