The American Experience: Season 19, Episode 11

Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple (9 Apr. 2007)

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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 52 users  
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Title: Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple (09 Apr 2007)

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9 April 2007 (USA)  »

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Riveting and Immensely Mature Chronicling Of The Fall Of The People's Temple
10 April 2007 | by (Italy) – See all my reviews

Compelling documentary about The Peoples Temple shows a firm journalistic grasp of its material without resorting to unwelcome, exploitative, or biased depictions of those who survived or didn't survive its ruin--including cult leader Jim Jones, himself. Director Stanley Nelson utilizes a multitude of video, film and--most chillingly--audio resources to document the Church of Jim Jones from its gestation in Indiana to its self-destruction in Guyana, 1978. Excellent use of interviews with the survivors is cross-cut with the film's narrative, gradually telling the stories of the few who escaped. This eventually leads to the movie's highly suspenseful, yet respectful, conclusion to an American story about helpless souls, many of them elderly and black, succumbing to the empty promises of a fanatic. The climax is harrowing, regardless of what the viewer already knows of the tragedy and its aftermath. The audio samples combined with the last film evidence of the Temple members, dancing, singing, welcoming outsiders into their community, and then the dissent and unrest that soon follows, make the final 30 minutes an unforgettable experience. Unflinching, intelligent and heartbreaking work of documentary art. Not only provides a commentary on 1970s turmoil in America, but on the gullibility of human beings to seek faith and comfort where there only exists the greed for power.

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