Release Date: October 20th, 2006 (Quad Cinema) by Seventh Art Releasing.
Directed by Stanley Nelson.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Jim Jones who lead the Peoples Temple and murdered over 900 of its members in 1978.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Jonestown follows how Jim Jones gradually manipulated and brainwashed his cult followers from the 1960’s through the 1970’s. His religious, racially integrated followers believed that he was their savior and loyally attended his sermons. As if trying to promote himself, Jones included more buses to add more followers as he moved them to California. Later, in 1977, they all moved their cult to Guyana. What makes this documentary so fascinating is that there’s much more to Jones than meets the eye. He sexually abused females in his movement, including one who vividly recalls her abuse on a bus. His sexual behavior outside of the sermons, where he preached celibacy, made him into a hypocrite. Moreover, he drank heavily and took drugs which he claimed was for health purposes. In a particularly foreshadowing moment, Jones tell his followers that they drank poison from the punch that they all drank together and, suddenly, he says that there was no poison—he just wanted them to prove their devotion to him. Director Stanley Nelson does a wonderful job of combining old footage from the Peoples Temple as well as new footage with interviews of the surviving members of the crew who brought Congressman Leo Ryan to Guyana during the last days before the mass suicide. Some members of the cult yearned to escape and tried to communicate their frustrations to reporters and the Congressman. When Jones realized that he might lose his followers at that moment, he desperately tried to convince them that the media is wrong and that the Congressman and his crew are out to torture them. Shortly, Jones murdered them by making them drink juice tainted with cyanide. Congressman Leo Ryan and his crew were tried to escape and got shot at, killing the Congressman. It’s both riveting and frightening to hear the surviving crew members give their account of what they saw during the mass suicide and how they managed to escape.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The final moments before the mass suicide/murder feel very heart-retching. It’s shocking how an evil, deceptive man such as Jim Jones could brainwash so many people and turn them into devoted followers—much like Adolf Hitler did to millions of Germans.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Riveting, shocking and fascinating.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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