Jonestown: Tough, Exhausting … and Important

For those in search of mindless entertainment, please look elsewhere.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, though emotionally exhausting and overwhelming, even for the most seasoned researcher, is eye-opening and so full of raw truth and heart. It’s both painful and joyful. It takes pieces of recorded history and finally makes them gel, allowing one to see the evolution and culmination of what could have been – and once was – a viable society.

One is given the opportunity to both love and hate Jim Jones simultaneously through the eyes of those who knew and loved him. For all the news coverage the Jonestown incident received, this is one crucial aspect that the general public has been denied until release of this documentary. The carefully-orchestrated dance of leader and flock is made both plausible and sane all at once.

While the event was well-covered in the media at the time, much of the coverage was disconnected, sensationalistic, and – as a result – incomprehensible. This film is the first to give continuity to the Peoples Temple story, and thereby provide a context. We finally understand both what drew people in and what drove them out. We even start to understand what happened in Jonestown on November 18, 1978.

Though not a film for the self-indulgent, this film deserves a good, hard viewing. It answers numerous questions to anyone seeking the truth.

(Susan M. White Hicks’ complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. She can be reached at