WELCOME TO THE BEYOND (Brent Huff, 2018)
260 West 23rd St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday, November 13, 7:30
Festival runs November 8-15
In the summer of 1978, Hoyt Richards, a gorgeous blond athlete from a large, successful family, was approached by a man on a beach in Nantucket who offered him a bright future. Richards, aka John Richards, appeared to already have it all, but he eventually followed the man, who turned out to be Frederick von Mierers, the leader of the Eternal Values cult, who claimed to be an alien from the planet Arcturus. Former model Brent Huff tells the bizarre story, in many ways a cautionary tale, in Welcome to the Beyond, screening November 13 at DOC NYC. In 2012, while filming a Ford Models reunion, actor, writer, and director Huff (Behind the Orange Curtain, Chasing Beauty) recognized Richards and approached him about making a documentary about his experience with Eternal Values. Richards agreed, and speaks extensively about what happened to him; Huff also meets with many of Richards’s friends and relatives. “There’s definitely a dynamic in this family that’s regrettable,” younger brother Garth says. “That dynamic had to do with, John was always my father’s favorite, and John epitomized what my father would have loved to have been: the blue-eyed, blond-haired, good-looking football player. There’s a cruel twist in all that, is that by my father making John his favorite, he created resentment from every other sibling of John. He put John on an island, and I don’t know how John internalized that, but that wasn’t a pretty place to be.”
Talking about his mother, John, who is one of the film’s producers, admits, “I always just felt like she was on a different planet.” John was the first male supermodel, went to Princeton, partied at Studio 54, and had a major career, but ultimately he came to understand that he was in a cult and that he had to get out. The psychology behind his story is related by Steven Hassan, a former cult member who became a deprogrammer and has written such books as Combatting Cult Mind Control. Richards’s five siblings, cousins, parents, and close friends as well as a fellow former cult member all share their thoughts on a situation that they still don’t really understand: Just why did Richards fall for von Mierers and Eternal Values? Welcome to the Beyond is screening November 13 at 7:30 at Cinepolis Chelsea in the Portraits section of DOC NYC, with Huff, producer Shawn Huff, and editor Pete Speneuk on hand for a Q&A.