I was 11 when the Jonestown massacre occurred and I recently became interested in hearing the whole story as I was too young at the time of the actual event to fully understand it. After watching this, and the also-excellent Paradise Lost, I can finally get a sense what drove the awful events of that fateful day in Guyana. I agree with one of the survivors that Cult is a "four letter word" and those shots of rows and rows of silent bodies were once filled with actual human beings. In a perfect world, Jonestown would have been some kind of socialist utopia, however Jim could not run from the lies and accusation that began in San Francisco (or perhaps before). You hear the stories of seemingly ordinary, everyday people who fell under Jim's charismatic offering of a rainbow coalition, other seeking a open minded church, some just looking for companionship during a turbulent time in American history. The numbers grow, however the power Jones gives him a state of paranoia and an increasing drug habit. You are treated to Congressman Leo Ryan's (and company) trek to Africa to on a fact finding mission that ends in heroic tragedy, the documentary gives a sense of dread as they crew rather quickly realize all is not well.
The footage is quite disturbing and horrific. The sounds of babies and children screaming will haunt me for years. The eerily quiet shots of people milling about the bodies of scores of People's Temple members says more than most of what a Hollywood movie can churn out. You can see why so many flocked to this man, while it's also clear why everything just fell apart. I'd say this is a must-see for anyone interested in the darker side of human nature.
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