Title – Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)
Director – Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders)
Cast – Rebecca Moore, Stanley Clayton, Jim Jones, Chuck Wilmore
Plot – With previously never before seen footage, this documentary charts the start of the Jim Jones led Peoples Temple and it’s tragic end with added firsthand accounts from some of the Temple’s members.
“Be assured in that choice is not ours now. It’s out of our hands. Die with respect. Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don’t lay down with tears and agony. Stop this hysterics. Keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt if you’ll be quiet.”
Review by Eddie on 23/10/2014
The Jonestown Massacre is an event so horrible and unique that it’s hard to fathom that it did in fact happen; such is the unbelievable nature of its waste of human life. In this made for television documentary commissioned by PBS, we get an insight into the events leading up to and also during the mass suicide that killed over 900 followers of demented church leader Jim Jones.
Director Stanley Nelson has done a fine job gathering together a range of talking heads who experienced the workings of Jones first hand and his also unearthed some quite startling archival footage and voice recordings to give us an eerily insightful look at what took place in the People’s Temple and what exactly Jones preached on the day the Cool Aid supplies were used for the most sinister reasons possible. These uses of real life footage and voice recordings create the documentary’s most powerful moments and a culmination of extreme evil at the end becomes jaw droopingly hard to sit through as men, women and children (some babies) were told they needed to end their life all for the sake of the greater good. While these elements combine to create a morbidly fascinating look into the People’s Temple the film lacks an overall sense of achievement in its telling of Jones and his motivations.
You get the feeling that the quintessential look into this group and its manipulative leader is still to be told, as here Nelson fail’s to properly pinpoint just what drew Jones to not only start the group, but end the group and the film remains frustratingly distant in many avenues when it comes to the focus of who Jones was and what he wanted. The world may never truly understand just what drove this evil man and what also drew so many to feel like they were powerless to stop the man or simply say no to him but surely there is more insight to be found for the groundwork of such an evil human.
While not entertainment in any stretch of the imagination, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple is an intriguing look into an event that occurred not that long ago and remains to this day one of the most horrific acts of violence ever seen and an example of blind faith leading to destruction.
3 loudspeaker announcements out of 5
To read our review of The Sacrament (Ti West’s feature film based on these events) click here