Arts and popular culture notes (2013)

In addition to the stories by artists, composers and filmmakers in this section of the jonestown report, we learned of these other developments within the past year:

Jonestown in Film & TV

08-01-Sacrament• A new horror film, The Sacrament, tells the story of a journalist who investigates a seemingly-benign but mysterious cult, only to discover that many of its members are trying to get out but are being held against their will “by this very charismatic and charming guy called The Father.” Shot in documentary style, including use of the “found video” genre, the movie unfolds from the characters’ points of view, revealing events as they show themselves to those who experience it. The director Ti West admits it sounds a lot like the Jonestown massacre, and one reviewer points out that it was the Jonestown story that drew West to the project. “Yeah, it is just like that,” West said in an interview.

A trailer for the film appears here. Other reviews – ones drawing the Jonestown parallels – include articles by The Wolfman, Travis Leamons for Inside Pulse, and David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter.

• In late 2012, The Hollywood Reporter wrote about a new conspiracy drama film called Jonestown, a project of a new film finance and production company called Solar Pictures. “The story centers on an idealistic young follower who is seduced by the brilliant cult leader Jim Jones. The once-utopian community spirals out of control resulting in perhaps the largest mass-suicide in world history. But behind the secrets of Jonestown, our hero bears witness to government collusion.” There has been no publicity since the announcement of the project, which was scheduled to start shooting earlier this year.

• “Cult,” a television series on the CW Network, tells the story of a reporter whose efforts to find his missing brother take him to a mysterious charming leader with a devoted, almost fanatical following. Publicity about it includes references to real life “cult” icons, like Charles Manson, David Koresh and Jim Jones.

08-01-propagandaJonestown in Art

A public installation by an art student as part of an assignment on the theme “propaganda” features a large image of Jim Jones with projected lights for his eyes. The video of the artpiece also includes images of some of the faces of members of Peoples Temple projected on the artist’s hand.

Jonestown in Books

• Two years after publication of A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres, the book has become one of the most popular accounts of the Jonestown tragedy. The book has been released in paperback, and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The author continues to be interviewed in several forums, including a July 1 conversation with Deirdre Suguichi in Guernica, a magazine of art and politics.

Finally, Ms. Scheeres has her own page on Wikipedia, a year after a page for the book itself went onto the site.

Jonestown in Music

A number of musical artists and groups have incorporated the icons – and even the very name – of Jonestown into their own images in recent months. Among recent discoveries:

08-01-dsisive7• Canadian hip-hop artist D-Sisive has released the third CD in his Jonestown trilogy, entitled The Dream Is Over. In addition to the title track, the CD includes such tracks as “November,” “WhenWeDieTogether,” and “All My Friends Are Dead.” Reviews appeared on several Canadian websites, including the Torontoist (which features the audio for “WhenWeDieTogether”). The album is available for free download here.

• Polkadot Cadaver, an avant-garde metal rock group from Rockville, Maryland, has released an album called Last Call in Jonestown. The title track includes numerous images from previous videos, as well as sound bites from the so-called Death Tape. (The video also appears on the Metal Underground and ThePRP websites.)

• A new rap music label, Jonestown Records, released a CD entitled Drink the Kool-Aid in June. It appears in its entirety here. Warning: The lyrics are graphic and explicit.

08-01-Natalia-Kills-Controversy-2012• In her rap release “Controversy” – listing the aspects of modern life which have denigrated American society – Natalia Kills repeats the refrain throughout, “Drink the Kool-Aid (Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid).” Warning: The lyrics are graphic and explicit.

• The garage/metal group Peoples Temple released a new album in early 2013 entitled More for the Masses. The original artwork – which accompanied the group’s announcement of the release – included a bloody-mouthed Jim Jones, cracked skulls and a dancing Kool-Aid man, but the group eventually settled on a much starker, minimalist design of black words on a white background.

• The Jonestown Band, a music group from Tucson, Arizona, has released its debut album The Last Days of Jonestown. Its video of its single “Lions” includes an image of spilled wine, which some viewers have suggested in a symbol for Kool-Aid or blood. The music is available as a free download here.

• The Mudville Mothers, an alternative rock band from Pretoria, South Africa, has released a song called “The Jonestown Boogie,” including the lyric “Have a drink to the end of the world.” The song streams on soundcloud here.

• Music producer Hot Sugar has recorded a short piece of electronica called “Finale,” which opens with excerpts from the so-called “Death Tape.” It is available for listening and download here.