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Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)

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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.

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1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Rebecca Moore ... Herself
Janet Shular ... Herself
Tim Carter ... Himself
Stanley Clayton ... Himself
Hue Fortson Jr. ... Himself
Garrett Lambrev ... Himself
Claire Janaro ... Herself
Neva Sly Hargrave ... Herself
Deborah Layton ... Herself
Phyllis Wilmore Zimmerman ... Herself
Chuck Wilmore ... Himself
John R. Hall ... Himself
Tim Reiterman ... Himself
June Cordell ... Herself
Eugene Cordell ... Himself
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Storyline

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.

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Release Date:

26 April 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dödens tempel  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,482, 20 October 2006, Limited Release
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Jim Jones: Be assured in that choice is not ours now. It's out of our hands. Die with respect. Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don't lay down with tears and agony. Stop this hysterics. Keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt if you'll be quiet.
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References Star Trek (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Welcome
Performed by the People's Temple Choir
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User Reviews

 
Very decent documentary, but not genius
31 October 2007 | by See all my reviews

This is one of these stories that can be revisited over and over again while trying to understand what actually happened. What are the reasons that make people do horrible things without really wanting or understanding why do they do them. It is a film about collective delusion and manipulation... or maybe it is a film about fear and uncertainty towards life?

Well, I wish I could answer these questions after this documentary. But I can't, because despite it's very acceptable technical quality, the choice of a chronological narration doesn't do much to add depth to a character larger than life as Jim Jones was.

The film did a lot to enlighten me in the origins of the church, it's racial integration and also its claims against social inequality. But the character itself remains a mystery to me. His motivations, the techniques he used to control his followers. It is all depicted very lightly and without much intellectual depth. There are moments when some of the cult followers say things about Jones that could be further explored, but unfortunately the director chooses to leave them as nearly an anecdote.

And this is what I think it is the biggest concern I have against this very interesting film. The narration makes Jones appear as an eccentric egomaniac. But the truth is that one hints there was so much more in his plans. It is just not plausible that he just made up the mass suicide- murder idea on the go. There is something utterly well thought out about how everything happened. This is pure evil at work, not very different to the Jew extermination by the Nazis. There was a plan, and I am sure that in this case there was a very well laid out plan. But the film makes it all appear almost as random as the weather.

It is a pity, because the archive footage is varied and excellent. But I can't help but wonder what Errol Morris would have done of this film. Probably a masterpiece, because he would have made what he does best: Portray characters with total precision.

Still, an interesting documentary to watch.


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