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Movie Review: Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple

Alternate Title: Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Story: Don't drink the kool-aid has become part of the American lexicon. It's horrifying origin might be unknown to a younger generation. For those of us old enough to recall November 18, 1978 I doubt you could forget the nightmare of the worst mass suicide in United States history.

MacArthur genius award recipient, film maker Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till, A Place of Our Own) has made a powerful documentary about the rise and demise of Jim Jones and the People's Temple.

He does not rely on a narrator to tell this riveting tale, but exclusively uses file footage and talking heads. The interviewees are either relatives of Temple members or members who escaped the carnage or who were not at the camp the day of the suicides. Many of the film clips have never seen before since they have been recently released by the CIA.

Jim Jones was a fascinating and charismatic man. His rise to prominence came at a time when all things seemed possible in the Age of Aquarius. He built a church established on the principle of racial equality and social justice. He took care of the sick, fed the hungry and started a community of caring souls. Like many good ideological movements, it ultimately changed into a dictatorship, where its members would not be allowed to think or act for themselves.

Their wholesale move to Guyana was the beginning of the end. On November 18, 1978 Jim Jones ordered 909 people to drink cyanide laced Kool-Aid. His henchmen also murdered Congressman Jim Ryan who was visiting the compound on a fact finding mission on behalf of the members' relatives back home.

This sordid part of American history is a valuable lesson worth remembering. I urge you to see this film and urge you to NEVER DRINK THE KOOL-AID no matter how tempting the promises seem to be.

Predilection: I have always been fascinated by this event in American history.

Blatant Product Placement: I can't say that Kool-Aid would be pleased by the reminder of their products' usage.

Soundtrack: Some wonderful church singing.

Theater Audience: A fairly crowded theater.

Weather: It seemed to always be nice for the People's Temple.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 2

Squirm Scale: 4

Drift Factor: I did not drift for a moment.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Big Screen or Rental: If you can catch it on a big screen it would be a good way to go and to support the Indies but rental would be fine.

Length: 90 minutes