Posted by: kfugrip | May 9, 2007

What I want is information

As number 61 of I picked Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple, directed by Stanley Nelson is about Jim Jones, the megalomaniacal preacher/cult leader who orchestrated the biggest mass suicide ever.  It’s this event that birthed the “poisoned Kool-aid” thing that you hear, as a joke or as a reference.  I knew nothing about this until I saw a blurb about the film on the internet somewhere.  I find things like this fascinating and disturbing in a way I can’t accurately describe.  909 people, including newborn children, drank poison and died because of this man, Jim Jones.  It takes your breath away.

That’s the thing about religion isn’t it.  There are beautiful things about belief.  The People’s Temple was a place for integration and social equality.  They were important messages and still are, but there is a leader involved in these things, these movements.  In this case the leader, Jim Jones, loses his mind and becomes paranoid to such a degree that he murders his followers.  I would like to distance myself and say that it’s people preying on ignorant people… but I don’t think this is true.  I could ramble on like this for pages and pages but I think you get the idea.

The documentary itself is talking heads, without narration, and a wealth of found footage and audio recordings.  The talking heads are survivors mainly and the story is told through them more than the footage, because the footage was made as propaganda for the People’s Temple.

If you don’t know this story, and you probably don’t know it in detail, then you should see this film.  The final picture of the dead bodies lying around the compound is something I can’t unsee.  I’ll take that image with me everywhere for the rest of my life.

4 stars because it’s an informative and powerful documentary but very much in the style of most modern documentaries that are made for TV… and that’s not a good thing.




  1. This was an incredible movie. I found it amazing that 900 or so people could kill themselves in a couple of hours time, and then no one really understands to this day why it happend. The survivors were fascinating!
    I wonder why they couldn’t have decided to run away before they watched their whole families commit suicide? That had me thinking for days.

  2. […] I am still shaken. The way this is sitting with me is reminiscent of my reaction to the Jonestown […]

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