Some stories are so crazy they can only be true, and the story of Australian cult The Family is certainly one of them. It’s worth remembering when it finally becomes your next local streaming obsession – in fact, you probably won’t be able to forget it – with Disney+ taking inspiration from Australia’s sinister cult for a new eight-part series titled The meadow.
If you’re new to The Family – and haven’t seen the excellent and extremely chilling 2016 documentary that shares the cult’s name, or the 2019 series The cult of the family, both from filmmaker Rosie Jones – then buckle up for the whole story. It was very real, forming in the 1960s around Melbourne, led by the charismatic yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne.
A female-led cult is already exceedingly rare, but this story also includes adopting children who looked identical, dressing them in matching clothes, claiming that Hamilton-Byrne was a living god and, because that’s not enough , lots of LSD. Police raided the sect’s compound at Lake Eildon in 1987, all of these children were removed from the property, and Hamilton-Byrne and her husband fled Australia, but were arrested in the United States in 1993.
There’s more to this tale, which inspired JP Pomare’s novel In the clearing – and that’s what The meadow adapts. The show will go into fictional but still chaotic detail as it follows a woman who begins to confront her nightmarish past to stop a secret cult that is gathering children to serve its master plan. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere will be tense, the Disney + series being resolutely a psychological thriller.
As for the actors, almost every famous Australian actor name is involved, or so it seems, including Teresa Palmer (Ride like a girl), Miranda Otto (true colors) and Guy Pearce (Easttown Mare), as well as Claudia Karvan (To bump) and Mark Coles-Smith (Mystery Route: Origin).
Also configured to appear on screen: Hazem Shammas (The Twelve), Kate Mulvany (Hunters), Xavier Samuel (Elvis), Anna Lise Philips (Fires), Harry Greenwood (Wakefield) Erroll Shand (Bunny King’s Justice), Doris Younane (Five bedrooms), Miah Madden (Diving club), Julia Sauvage (Mr. In-Between), Gary Sweet (Wentworth), Alicia Gardiner (Offspring), Matt Okine (the other guy) and Jérémy Blewitt (Alice Hart’s Lost Flowers), plus Lily La Torre (Running Rabbit Running) and Ras-Samuel Welda’abzgi (Neighbors). We told you the list was long.
Behind the lens, Jeffrey Walker (Lambs of God) and Gracie Otto (seriously red) are directing, with Elise McCredie (Stateless) and Matt Cameron (Irish Jack) create and write The meadow — with the help of co-author Osamah Sami (Ali’s wedding).
The meadow is one of Disney+’s first three newly-ordered local scripted dramas — its first three, in fact — alongside The Cunning Dodger and Last days of the space age.
There is obviously no trailer for The meadow yet, but you can check out the trailer for Family below:
The Clearing will stream via Disney+, with a release date yet to be revealed – we’ll keep you posted with more details when they’re announced.
Top image: The worship of the family.