Jonestown, 30 years later: Life and Death of People's Temple (PBS video).

Of the many television and film documentaries produced on Jonestown, the 2006 PBS American Experience feature Jonestown: Life and Death of People's Temple, directed by Stanley Nelson, seems to me the most sensitive and comprehensive. I read somewhere that Jim Jones' adopted son -- who appears in this film -- also feels that way. Google Video embed above, and here's the link. Amazon Link to purchase DVD, and here is the PBS website, with additional background.

Boing Boing posts on Jim Jones, Jonestown and People's Temple:

- Jonestown, 30 years Later: Inside People's Temple, the 1977 exposé.
- Jonestown, 30 years later: original audio recordings from People's Temple and Guyana.
- Jonestown, 30 years later: Life and Death of People's Temple (PBS video).
- Jonestown, 30 years later: interview with a survivor (video)
- Jonestown, 30 years later: From Silver Lake To Suicide
- Jonestown, 30 years later: "Father Cares," NPR documentary from 1981
- Raven: The Untold Story of The Reverend Jim Jones and His People
- Andrew Brandou on his Jonestown paintings


  1. If you’d seen this film, you’d get it too. It’s a really fascinating, riveting history. There was so much I did not know … and wouldn’t have understood before I’d seen this. Required viewing for anyone interested in the period.

  2. This film is fascinating, intense, enlightening, and extremely well made. The story is told only via interviews with people: ex-church members, survivors, family members. The amazing thing about it is how you are led from the truly inspiring and progressive ideas and actions of the church to the ultimate nightmare. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Jim Jones, American culture in the 70’s, religion in general, and kick-ass documentary filmmaking.

    I’m serious. It’s good.

  3. FIXEDD, how can you so purposefully blind yourself of history? Doing so is how we doom ourselves to repeat it. Stop and learn something.

  4. Seriously? This is one of the most disturbing pieces of media I have ever seen. The voice of Jim Jones saying “Mother, mother, mother…” as he convinces mothers of young children to give the drink to their children first is absolutely chilling. And they did.

    For me it was about how easy it is to brainwash ordinary people to do horrendous things. Its a great and horrific documentary.

  5. There’s a genius little video called Mind Control Made Easy – it’s made to look like a filmstrip you’d see in school in the 70s or 80s, sort of, and it outlines how people can get pulled in to this sort of thing.

    It’s only 12(ish) minutes long, and worth watching.

  6. wonder how many unique link identities exist in all the BB pedigree to date? That’s It! BBGrayGoo! Absorb the Web, all of it! Convert all! I always wanted to be a prion.

  7. Something about this documentary doesn’t sit right with me. Tim Carter’s story is just odd — that he somehow happened to survive — until you read up that he was one of those tasked with delivering Jonestown’s money to the Soviet embassy. And then I read this bit on Death A Day, a blog that’s worth a look-see:

    There, he mentions he had a gun, which makes him one of Jim Jones’ enforcers. He’s probably a murderer. If not by deed then by complicit act.

    Its the dad in me speaking. His baby, Malcolm, looked like mine does, unnervingly so. Maybe it is a failure of empathy on my part, but a universe couldn’t exist where I’d watch my baby boy die like that.

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