Anyone who's interested in San Francisco history must see this movie. Director and MacArthur genius grant recipient Stanley Nelson (who previously directed the Emmy-award-winning ) has put together a sensitive and thoughtful history of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple that stays away from the usual pat explanations of the situation (as Nelson said in the post-screening Q&A, the story of "900 crazy people drinking Kool-Aid in the jungle") to outline a story that's even more disturbing when you realize how almost-acceptable the situation was that Jones created.
As you can see in the picture at the left, Jim Jones was tight in San Francisco local politics, and was considered a key part of George Moscone's (short-lived) mayoral triumph in 1977. Peoples Temple promoted a religious doctrine of interracial brotherhood, responsibility for the poor, and a socialist utopia in which everyone looked out for everyone else. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Peoples Temple also participated in a number of progressive social movements, attending rallies and organizing get-out-the-vote campaigns, and as a result, Jim Jones was awarded a seat on the board of the San Francisco Housing Authority (!!!) before he fled for Guyana, killed a state congressman, and orchestrated the mass suicide of over 900 people.
Our mouth kept dropping open at the footage that Nelson had obtained -- interviews with Jones's childhood acquaintances (all of whom agreed he was a weird little dude, torturing and killing cats so he could hold funerals for them), sermons by Jones at his temple on Geary (now the post office next to the Fillmore, where the downtown-bound 38 Geary stop is), footage of followers seeing Guyana for the first time, and the most chillingly, live film of the final days in Jonestown and the fateful visit by Congressman Leo Ryan (and a young Sen. Jackie Speier) and tape recordings of Jim Jones urging people to "drink faster, faster, faster." Dude, we were freaked out.
Interviews with survivors, Intersection for the Arts, and Jim Jones Jr. at the Q&A, after the jump.The Murder of Emmett Till