Jonestown: Paradise Lost (2007)

7.5 Overall Score

Great explanation of the last days of Jonestown, good interviews

Needs more background, use more original footage

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Jonestown:  Paradise Lost

Studio:  Film Afrika

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 15, 2007

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


On November 18, 1978, 900+ people died at Jonestown and over 300 of them were children

On November 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana was the site of a mass suicide, and the largest amount of U.S. civilian life lost before 9-11.  The events leading up to this tragedy are explored as California Congressman Leo Ryan and a grew heads down to Guyana with a team to explore the truth behind the group…the events are about to be sparked and Jonestown will fall.

Directed by Tim Wolochatuk, Jonestown:  Paradise Lost originally aired on the History Channel on January 15, 2007.  The documentary combines recreations with interviews of people involved.


Ambush at the airstrip recreation

Jonestown is an interest to me.  I frequently drive past the location of the church where Jim Jones preached in Indianapolis and it is creepy to think that the horror that Jones ended up creating started so close to me.  It was interesting to hear from some of the party involved in the fateful trip to Guyana that led to so many deaths.

The movie makes the situation much more cinematic than the standard documentary.  This is good and bad.  It gives a better impression of the whole situation because it is able to tell what occurred without simply relying on eyewitness accounts…but it also underuses the documentary material actually shot by the team lead by the Congressman.  The showing of people who died in the suicide is good way to really humanize it…including showing how some refused to take the poison.


Stephan Jones needs more exploration

I really like the first hand interviews because although time can affect them, the interviews are real people involved in the real events.  The most captivating of the people interviewed has to be Jim Jones’ son Stephan Jones who was not at the compound at the time of the massacre…and has more incite to his father’s actions.  I think that he is probably worthy of an entire documentary himself…how he got there and what happened to him after the massacre.

There is so much that can be done with Jonestown and Jonestown:  Paradise Lost gets close to exploring it.  The last twenty minutes of the documentary are obviously the most powerful by showing the death of over nine hundred people and the aftermath.  I feel that the movie would have benefited from more background on Jim Jones and his followers to understand how they got there, and why they were able to be convinced to die by Jones (or forced in many cases).  There have been other documentaries, and a 2013 movie called The Sacrament featured a fictionalized account of the same events in this movie…but stick to the truth of the situation.

Related Links:

The Sacrament (2013)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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