Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Synopsis: Featuring never-before-seen footage, this documentary delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple, headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch.
Director(s): Stanley Nelson
Production: 7th art
  1 win & 4 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
86 min

Nobody joins a cult.

Nobody joins something

they think is going to hurt them.

You join a religious organization,

you join a political movement,

and you join with people

that you really like.

I think in everything

that I tell you about Jim Jones,

there is going to be a paradox.

Having this vision

to change the world,

but having this

whole undercurrent of dysfunction

that was underneath that vision.

Some people see

a great deal of God in my body.

They see Christ in me, a hope of glory.

He said, If you see me as your friend,

Ill be your friend.

As you see me as your father,

Ill be your father.

He said, If you see me as your God,

Ill be your God.

Jim Jones talked about

going to the Promised Land

and then, pretty soon, we were seeing

film footage of Jonestown.

Rice, black-eyed peas, Kool-Aid.

We all wanted to go.

I wanted to go.

Peoples Temple truly had the potential

to be something big

and powerful and great,

and yet for whatever reason,

Jim took the other road.

On the night of the 17th,

it was still a vibrant community.

I would never have imagined that

24 hours later, they would all be dead.

Die with a degree of dignity!

Dont lay down with tears and agony!

Its nothing to death.

Its just stepping over into another plane.

Dont, dont be this way.

I vividly remember the first time

that I met Jim Jones.

My sister Carolyn

had invited my parents

and my younger sister and I

to visit her in Potter Valley.

We came and there was

this strange man in her house,

and her husband wasnt there.

Annie and I were sent out

to go on a walk.

When we came back,

something had happened.

Something terrible had happened,

because everyone had red eyes

except for Jim Jones.

We didnt really get the story

until we were in the car going home.

He was carrying on an adulterous

relationship with my sister.

And because his wife

couldnt relate to him as a wife...

that Carolyn

had taken over that role.

Everything was plausible,

except in retrospect,

the whole thing seems

absolutely bizarre.

The first time

I visited Peoples Temple,

I drove at the urging of a friend,

a co-worker, to Redwood Valley.

We all got suited down,

neck-tied and everything.

You know, and we were sharp.

As soon as I walked into

the San Francisco temple, I was home.

I was one of those kind of guys...

that I used drugs.

I was an alcoholic.

I drunk alcohol and stuff like that.

And... and all these people

that were like my age,

they were clean.

Before I came here,

I was takingLSD, marijuana,

every type of dope

you can imagine.

Without our pastor, Jim Jones,

to teach me the right way,

I would not be in college right now.

And for me, that was like,

Wow, man. I liked that.

Thank you very much, thank you.

There was an interracial group.

The choir was interracial

and they used to sing this song:

Never heard a man

speak like this man before.

Never heard a man

speak like this man before.

All the days of my life,

ever since I been born,

I never heard a man

speak like this man before.

After they sang one or two songs,

the whole place was lit up.

The Peoples Temple services,

they had life, they had soul,

they had power.

We were alive in those services.

I would be up jumping in the balcony

and clapping my hands.

If you came in as a stranger

and didnt know anything about the politics,

you were thinking you were entering

an old-time religion service.

By the time Jones did come out

to do his speaking,

the table had already been set.

I represent divine principle,

total equality,

a society where people own

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