Reverend Jim Jones, the priest of an independent church in the South American country Guyana, orders his followers to commit suicide. But not all of them follow him blindly and begin to think on their own.
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.
Based upon the true story of Reverend Jim Jones, a self-proclaimed prophet who founded the Peoples Temple. In the 1960s, he began as an idealist helping minorities and working against racism. After a move to San Francisco and increased power and attention, Jim Jones became focused on his belief in nuclear holocaust. He had a loyal following of over 1000 people, who had donated their entire life savings to him and to join his commune, before moving them to Guyana. When possible illegal activities came to the attention of the authorities, and once notified that some individuals are being held against their will, they began to investigate. Rather that face the charges against him, Jim Jones committed suicide, and convinced virtually most of his followers to do the same. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
I read a few reviews of this TV movie which all said that the film dragged on for too long and that it was basically only sensationalistic entertainment. I agree that perhaps, the film goes on a bit too long (2h30 would have been enough...) but I certainly do not think it sensationalize the subject matter. Jim Jones' expansive power trip and slow degradation into mental illness, paranoia and drug abuse are never treated in a voyeuristic manner. The movie takes its time in showing how Jones recruited followers (Brenda Vaccaro's and Brad Dourif's character are stand-outs in that matter) but also in observing an uncanny shift in Jones' perception of reality. It is mind-boggling to see an egalitarian, left-wing and compassionnate preacher become such a destructive and cruel dictator. Perhaps the movie doesn't explore Jones' motivations enough, which can make the whole ordeal a bit superficial at times (may have to do with censorship as well...) But Powers Boothe's mesmerizing performance makes it all come true. I am not familiar with the details of the real Jim Jones' life, but Boothe sure makes the monster he plays believable and real. The movie features many strong scenes, among them the preaching messes of Jones, Jones's meeting with Father Divine (a remarquable James Earl Jones), Congressman Leo Ryan (Ned Beatty)'s visit to the Guyana camp and of course, the suicide scene. It is quite a gloomy spectable to watch and Boothe is quite commanding in those last moments. Madge Sinclair shines in this scene as one of the suddenly sceptic follower, and so do Veronica Cartwright (as Jones' wife) and Brad Dourif, especially when their time comes to drink the murderous potion. The relative calm of the end of this scene, the tasteful direction and the contrasting beauty of the natural surroundings all work in making those images quite impossible to erase from one's mind. A disturbing reflection on human nature and its weaknesses. Worth watching, if only to keep in mind one of the truly horrific events of the 20th century. Not to let it be repeated again. Like, ironically, the inscription in Jim Jones' camp: "Those who do not know the past are bound to repeat it".
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