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Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

  • compiled by Peter T. Chattaway Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jan
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
from Film Forum, 02/08/07

You've probably heard about the crazy cult that killed itself with Kool-Aid. But have you heard about the surreal events—like something out of the original Wicker Man—that immediately preceded the mass suicide? Or about the earnest efforts to promote social and racial harmony on which Jim Jones built his religious movement in the first place? A new documentary tells the tragic, harrowing story.

Greg Wright (Past the Popcorn) says the film's "main strength is the way that it gets us to see how easily we all might ignore the warning signs, if the motivations were strong enough." He also writes, "What's amazing about Nelson's documentary is not that he manages to bring details like these to light, that the entire film is pieced together from eyewitness accounts to Jones' rise and murderous fall, or that Jones himself documented the whole charade well enough that Nelson doesn't have to rely on cheesy reenactments. The truly amazing thing is how the film builds a narrative momentum that packs so much emotional punch even though the audience knows exactly 'what happens next.' I can't recall ever having been so moved [by] an inexorable tragedy that I knew full well was coming. The impact is devastating—and well it should be."

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