Arts and popular culture notes (2014)

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

Jonestown in Novels

• Ryan Roy, an assistant director of a public library in Virginia, has chosen the Jonestown tragedy as the subject for his first effort in full-length fiction writing. Jonestown: A Novel, described in one review in the Waynesboro News Virginian as “a historical thriller about a young father determined to free his son from the clutches of the deranged reverend, Jim Jones,” was published earlier this year.

A second review of the book, from the Augusta Free Press – also located in Waynesboro – appears here.

sancturia• Malay author Shaz Johar, whose fiction covers such controversial social issues as the relationships between young men and older women, pedophilia, and cross-cultural romances, has published a novel inspired by the events in Jonestown. Sancturia, the dark story of a utopian community which loses its way and becomes a cult, was published in the spring. A description of the work appears here.

Jonestown in Film & TV

• The 2014 film, Kool-Aide, considered both a satire and social documentary, “takes an informative and funny look at various aspects of society, including government and government policy, food and drug safety, Obamacare and other issues that [filmmaker Joey] Cotroneo wanted to highlight,” according to an article describing the 75-minute movie. Making the connection between the Jonestown tragedy and modern-day life, the director said, “I am trying to make people aware of what’s going on and expose more truth and various propaganda.”

berget poster• The movie Jonestown, a fictional drama that “follows a young reporter who travelled down to the commune to investigate with a US delegation [and that] portrays the last 48 hours leading up to the mass-suicide,” premiered on November 16, 2013. David Berget, a recent graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, directed the movie. An extended trailer of the 23-minute film appears here.

Jonestown in Performance

jonestown-4• An “immersive experience” designed by a Las Vegas theater group allowed participants to “recreate Jonestown” during a three-week run in the fall of 2014, “just in time for the Halloween season,” as one preview noted. For the production of Jonestown, ticket buyers would learn the location of the evening’s performance earlier in the day. When they arrived, they became members of Peoples Temple for the performance. “[We] will take our congregants a step beyond the Kool-Aid,” Troy Heard, the Creative Director of Table 8 Productions was quoted as saying. “We show both outside and inside perspectives of the Rev. Jim Jones, his followers, and the dark path they took to their ends.”

A second preview of the performances appeared in

messenger• The Annoyance Theatre, a new theater group in Chicago, produced a play over the summer about Temple leader Jim Jones which – as a preview article noted – “isn’t about Jonestown.” Billed as “an original comedy/drama/musical,” The Raven and The Messenger focused on the relationship between Father Divine and Jim Jones.

The preview also included an extended interview with the play’s director, Irene Marquette.

jonesopolis• A website for Jonesopolis, described by its creator as “A Jonestown Operatic Requiem In 3 Acts With Incidental Music For Voices, Orchestra, & Unorthodox Instruments” has listed the multiple roles to be filled, dozens of traditional instruments as well as the “unorthodox” ones – glasses filled with water, washboards, shoes, and an anvil – as well as a description of scenes and musical numbers. Despite the enthusiasm for the project in multiple online platforms, the proposal does not seem to be moving towards a production.

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-mutant lab• The electronica group Mutantlab released the song ”we CaLL iT JOneSTOwn” – described as “some easy listening beats and excerpts from the last known audio recordings of The Peoples Temple Cult” – on their Mass Mutation album released through the Free Music Archive.