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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.


Stanley Nelson


Marcia Smith (story), Marcia Smith (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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


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.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

26 April 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dödens tempel See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,482, 22 October 2006

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Firelight Media Inc. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Deborah Layton: [on Jim Jones's brainwashing of his followers at Jonestown] Every night at some point, his voice would come over the loudspeaker, and he'd say, "I'm sending somebody out tonight. Somebody you know. Somebody you trust. And they're gonna act like they wanna leave. But this is a loyalty test, and you need to turn them in."
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Something Got a Hold on Me
Performed by the People's Temple Choir
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User Reviews

Interesting, well-structured documentary with effective use of contributions and video
28 May 2008 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Ah yes, another opportunity to mention The Wire as all fans tirelessly (and tiresomely) do; I was reminded of the Jonestown massacre (and that is how I see it) by a Spearhead track on the series soundtrack and coincidentally this film was on a week or so after I heard it. My knowledge of the events in Jonestown can be summarised into one short sentence so this film interested me by offering more than a simple summary. Using footage from inside the People's Temple movement as well as interviews with former members this builds the story chronologically from early stages through to the tragic conclusion to the movement.

There are many challenges and traps associated with telling this story and mostly this film works because it avoids the majority of them and deals well with the telling. The first challenge is to get the viewer to a point where it is at least understandable how Jones could lead such a movement to such an extent. One of the contributors says that nobody sets out to join a cult that will hurt them but yet the film makes it reasonably clear why so many people ultimately did and why so many people put up with so much out-and-out weirdness and oppression. In doing this the material naturally suggests that Jones is a monster or crazy and it would have been easy to ham this aspect up with music etc to the detriment of the film. As it works out, the film doesn't do this and instead lets events speak for themselves without really pulling cheap tricks to sensationalise or demonise anyone unnecessarily.

As a result it all comes over even handed and fair. The heavy use of those directly involved makes it a lot more interesting than a heavy narrator-led approach because you hear things first hand and have an insiders perception of events. Some viewers will feel the lack of conspiracy in the film but I did not because the film was on the general sweep of the tragedy rather than suggested stories behind it. OK so the material does a lot of the work by having a lot of inherent interest within it but even still this documentary is effectively structured with a good personal presentation that gets inside the world of the People's Temple and Jonestown.

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