Sunday, December 14, 2008

PBS's "Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple"

So what is this one about?
After watching the MSNBC documentary about Jim Jones and Jonestown I decided I needed to move this movie that was already in my queue to the top. The description of the PBS American Experience documentary (according to them) is,
In Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, award-winning filmmakers Stanley Nelson, Marcia Smith, and Noland Walker reveal the true, tragic story behind enigmatic preacher Jim Jones and his promise of a world of economic and racial equality that ultimately led to the largest mass murder-suicide in history. This new documentary tells the story of the people who joined Peoples Temple, following Jones from Indiana to California and ultimately to their deaths in Guyana in November 1978. Jonestown was an official selection of numerous 2006 film festivals, including Tribeca, Silverdocs, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Again, I am very lazy. Some fraction of $16.99 ;)

And what did I think?
Well, I didn't like this one as much as the MSNBC one. I thought the PBS one seemed like it was trying very hard to make things seem very nefarious. Now, granted, there was a mass suicide, so it seems unnecessary to make it seem worse, ya know? This documentary focused on the "gritty" and "dirty" details of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, things like forced sex and stuff like that. I just didn't find that to be as engaging.

Now, one thing that was utterly fascinating about watching this PBS documentary and the MSNBC one was how Lord of the Flies it all was. There were all these instances where members of the temple would simply turn on other members. Was there even a reason? Did Jim Jones tell them to? Sometimes. But sometimes he didn't. And it was an amazing demonstration of how humans revert to their natural and cruel state when it is in their interest. As someone who studies the former Soviet Union, oh, I understand this. It is truly incredible to see it happen over and over again in different circumstances.

I think it is probably worth watching a Jonestown documentary just to see that.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Like I already said, this one wasn't as good as the MSNBC one. The same people were used--the survivors, I mean. And since I had already heard their stories they weren't as emotionally affecting. They were still very interesting, but they weren't as affecting. Now, however, the end of this documentary was great. Very poignant and sad.

However, I still give this a 6.

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