British Documentary on Peoples Temple Begins Research

by Tom Deverell

Earlier this year I was editing a television series in London, England where I live. The programmes were about the 1970’s and how they helped shape the world today, by adopting many of the theories and ideologies that originated in the 1960’s.

The last programme of the series looked at the demolition of traditional family values, and how people discovered new ways of living in the seventies, as single parent families, mixed race families, same sex families, multi-parent families, and cults. It was whilst editing this programme that I came across Peoples Temple.

I was only seven years old in 1978 and blissfully unaware of the events that were unfolding four and a half thousand miles away in Guyana. So earlier this year when I saw the news footage from Jonestown for the first time, I was not only shocked and saddened but also intrigued. Laura Kohl gave an interview for the programme that I found very moving, and left me with a strange feeling inside. How come I’d never heard about the events from Jonestown? How could such a thing pass me by for all these years?

The programme I was editing dealt more with the broader issues of social change, so the section on Peoples Temple only made up a small portion of the film. I felt that this was an injustice in some way, and that the story needed to be told in full, so I set out to discover what happened and why. After doing a little research I realised that in the U.S many programmes have been made, and many books have been written on the suject, but the story has not been told in my country. Most people in Great Britain under the age of 45 have never heard of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, have never learned about the tragic events in Guyana.

All of this leads me to where I am today, and the purpose of my taking up your time to read this article. Robert A. Heinlein once wrote that “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” It’s a sentiment that I share and I would truly like for you to tell your story to my generation. I am currently making a film telling the story of Peoples Temple and how it impacted on many people’s lives. If you are one of those people, then I hope that you can help me in making a truthful and honest film. Any profits from the film’s theatrical release will be donated to The November 18th Living Memorial Food Fund.

If you are interested in taking part in any way, please contact me at tetdev@yahoo.com or on 0044 (0) 7759 159 627. I can’t make this film without you. Thank you for your time.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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