Witness to Jonestown (2008)
Written by Stephen Stept
This 2008 documentary was put together by NBC and written by award-winning screenwriter Stephen Stept. Stept has worked on documentary series like The Great Depression and Destination America. The film chronicles the rise and tragic fall of the The People’s Temple, a cult mastered by Jim Jones.
The cult began as a religious sect in 1955 that had branches all over America by the mid-70s. The group eventually migrated to Guyana in the late 70’s. Once there, Jones became paranoid and exerted tremendous power over the 900 plus people. This struggle ended with a tragic mass-suicide and an assault on media and political representatives on May 18th, 1978.
This film is a powerful mix of real footage and taped interviews with survivors and family members of Jones. The editing is wonderful and avoids turning the tragedy into a suspense film. Although the images is hard to watch, the movie really gets inside of a mad man. Jones decline is obvious throughout the footage show in the documentary.
I do wish this one would have given a bit more history on People’s Temple, but it doesn’t really hurt the film. Especially since this movie really focuses on the fall of the leader Jim Jones.
If you’re a fan of documentaries, this one is for you. The movie is emotional and powerful. Most of all, the movie doesn’t make any leaps or assumptions. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.