Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)

This month’s screening at Hot Docs was Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006) directed by Stanley Nelson. It’s been almost 30 years since preacher Jim Jones and his followers drank the Kool-Aid. In 1978, more than 900 members of the Peoples Temple participated in mass suicide (Jones shot himself in the head).

Stanley Nelson’s film is a fascinating history of Jim Jones and the cult he created. There are interesting interviews with former members of the Peoples Temple that were in Guyana on that fateful day. Never-before-seen footage of Jones and his church also provide a glimpse into a utopia gone bad.

The interviews reveal some bizarre stories about Jones’ character — drug abuse, homosexuality, alcohol, rape, and paranoia. I wished that Stanley Nelson explored the dark sunglasses. Why didn’t anyone question a preacher that hides behind his shades and looks like Elvis?

The film traces the history of Jim Jones explaining that he was from a very poor family in Indiana. His father was an alcoholic that didn’t work which made Jones an outcast. This is part of the reason that he easily identified with, and embraced the black community. He understood what it was like to be invisible in the 50s and 60s. The racism in the US really bothered him and was part of the reason he felt the need to create Jonestown in the jungles of Guyana.

The film raises a lot of questions and I hope that the DVD answers some of these when it is released on April 10, 2007. ***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in Movie Reviews at 9:48 PM