Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones

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Guyana Tragedy
Guyana Tragedy movie poster1.jpg
Australian DVD cover
Genre Biography
Drama
Directed by William A. Graham
Starring Powers Boothe
Ned Beatty
LeVar Burton
Colleen Dewhurst
Randy Quaid
Veronica Cartwright
James Earl Jones
Composer(s) Elmer Bernstein
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Frank Konigsberg
Producer(s) Sam Manners
Ernest Tidyman
Cinematography Gil Hubbs
Editor(s) Tony de Zarraga
Aaron Stell
Running time 192 minutes
Production company(s) Konigsberg Company
Distributor CBS
Release
Original network CBS
Original release
  • April 15, 1980 (1980-04-15)

Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, also called The Mad Messiah, [1] is a 1980 television miniseries about the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones, and their 1978 mass suicide at Jonestown. Based on the book by Charles A. Krause, entitled Guyana Massacre: The Eyewitness Account, the film was originally shown on television on April 15, 1980.

Television Telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images

Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome, or in color, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a television set, a television program, or the medium of television transmission. Television is a mass medium for advertising, entertainment and news.

A miniseries is a television program that tells a story in a predetermined, limited number of episodes. The term "serial" is used in the United Kingdom and in other Commonwealth nations, though its meaning does not necessary equate to "miniseries" in its usage.

Peoples Temple defunct new religious movement founded in 1955

The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ, commonly shortened to Peoples Temple, was a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jones used the Peoples Temple to spread a message that combined elements of Christianity with communist and socialist ideas, as well as an emphasis on racial equality.

Contents

Synopsis

The film draws on Guyana Massacre: The Eyewitness Account and reports from The Washington Post at the time, to describe the life of Jim Jones from a 1960s idealist to the November 1978 mass murder/suicide of members of Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. [2] In the beginning of the film, Jim Jones is seen helping minorities and working against racism. Later, after a move to San Francisco and increased power and attention, Jones becomes focused on his belief in nuclear holocaust, and moves hundreds of his followers to Guyana. Congressman Leo J. Ryan is notified that some individuals are being held against their will, and after going to investigate, the Guyana tragedy itself is depicted. [3]

<i>The Washington Post</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Mass murder act of murdering a large number of people

Mass murder is the act of murdering a number of people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity. The FBI defines mass murder as murdering four or more persons during an event with no "cooling-off period" between the murders. A mass murder typically occurs in a single location where one or more people kill several others.

Mass suicide is a form of suicide, occurring when a group of people simultaneously kill themselves.

Cast

ActorRole
Powers Boothe Jim Jones
Ned Beatty Congressman Leo J. Ryan
James Earl Jones Father Divine
Randy Quaid Clayton Richie based on Timothy Stoen
Meg Foster Jean Richie
Linda Haynes Karen Bundy
Brad Dourif David Langtree based on Larry Schacht
LeVar Burton Richard Jefferson
Michael C. Gwynne Larry King
Veronica Cartwright Marceline Jones
Albert Hall Otis Jefferson
Diane Ladd Lynette Jones
Diana Scarwid Sheila Langtree
Colleen Dewhurst Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy
Irene Cara Alice Jefferson
Rosalind Cash Jenny Hammond
Ron O'Neal Col. Robles
Brenda Vaccaro Jane Briggs
Joel Godard John Briggs
Clifton James Barber Charlie Amos
Ed Lauter Jim Jones Sr.

Characters

Jones's family members in the movie are based directly on his own family. The characters of Clayton and Jean Richie are based on Timothy and Grace Stoen (he was a primary Temple attorney and Jones's former right-hand man, she a main organizer for the Temple's "Planning Commission"), and David Langtree on Larry Schacht (the sole doctor at Jonestown), though elements of other Temple members are added to each, and details are changed. Many of the other characters are composites of one or more persons.

In a work of media adapted from a real or fictional narrative, a composite character is a character based on more than one individual from the preceding story. Two or more fictional characters are often combined into a single character in the course of an adaptation of a work for a different medium, as in adapting a novel in the course of authoring a screenplay for a film. A composite character may be modeled on historical or biographical figures. An amalgamation or amalgam, when used to refer to a fictional character or place, refers to one that was created by combining, or is perceived to be a combination, of several other previously existing characters or locations. To emphasize the origin of their creations, authors or artists may use amalgamated names.

The character of Larry King has been likened to Larry Layton, a People's Temple member who took part in the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan. [4]

Production

Though not a documentary in its own right, the film takes the style of a "true life" portrayal of the events. [5] James Earl Jones appears in the film, as spiritual leader Father Divine. The final scenes of the film, with dialog taken from the infamous "Jonestown death tape" (FBI Number Q 042), were produced in a documentary cinematic style, and shot in Puerto Rico and Georgia instead of Guyana. The film was originally broadcast in two parts by CBS Television, on April 15 and 16. [2]

James Earl Jones American actor

James Earl Jones is an American actor. His career has spanned more than 60 years, and he has been described as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest actors in American history". Since his Broadway debut in 1957, Jones has won many awards, including a Tony Award for his role in The Great White Hope, which also earned him a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film version of the play. Jones has won three Emmy Awards, including two in the same year in 1990. He is also known for his voice roles as Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series and Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King, as well as many other film, stage and television roles.

Father Divine, also known as Reverend M. J. Divine, was an African American spiritual leader from about 1907, until his death. His full self-given name was Reverend Major Jealous Divine, and he was also known as "the Messenger" early in his life. He founded the International Peace Mission movement, formulated its doctrine, and oversaw its growth from a small and predominantly black congregation into a multiracial and international church.

Documentary film nonfictional motion picture

A documentary film is a nonfictional motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record. "Documentary" has been described as a "filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception" that is continually evolving and is without clear boundaries. Documentary films were originally called 'actuality' films and were only a minute or less in length. Over time documentaries have evolved to be longer in length and to include more categories, such as educational, observational, and even 'docufiction'. Documentaries are also educational and often used in schools to teach various principles. Social media platforms such as YouTube, have allowed documentary films to improve the ways the films are distributed and able to educate and broaden the reach of people who receive the information.

Reception and awards

1980, promotional movie poster Guyana Tragedy movie poster2.jpg
1980, promotional movie poster

A 1980 Time magazine review was mostly positive, but criticized the film for spending too much time on earlier parts of Jones' life, stating: "There really is no point in recounting the minutiae of a madman's life if, after four hours, it is still impossible to understand how Jones became a sex-and-drug-crazed megalomaniac or why his misfit followers so easily accepted his larcenous and sadistic behavior." [6] The Time review went on to also note the way Boothe captured the minutiae of the Jim Jones character, and lamented that the film's writer had not made the role more complex for Boothe to portray. [6]

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

Actor Powers Boothe, who played the role of Jim Jones, won the 1980 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for his portrayal in the film. [7] [8] Boothe was the only nominated actor in any category to attend the awards ceremony, since the Screen Actors Guild was boycotting the event during a strike. [9] The film was also nominated for Emmy Awards in three other categories, including Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Mixing, Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special, and Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special. The film was also nominated for an Eddie Award, for Best Edited Episode from a Television Mini-Series, by the American Cinema Editors. [10]

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Jonestown former community established by the Peoples Temple

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Jim Jones American founder and the leader of the Peoples Temple

James Warren Jones was an American religious cult leader who, along with his inner circle, initiated a mass suicide and mass murder in Jonestown, Guyana. He was the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple cult which he began in Indiana during the 1950s. He was officially ordained in 1956 by the Independent Assemblies of God and in 1964 by the Disciples of Christ. He moved the Temple to California in 1965 and gained notoriety with its activities in San Francisco in the early to late 1970s. He then relocated to Guyana.

Leo Ryan American teacher and politician

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References

  1. Hedblad, Alan (2000). Something About the Author. Gale. pp. Page 95. ISBN   0-7876-4031-X.
  2. 1 2 Erickson, Hal., Plot Synopsis, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, Allmovie , retrieved June 10, 2007.
  3. Scarecrow Video (2004). The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide. Sasquatch Books. pp. Page 467. ISBN   1-57061-415-6.
  4. Gibbons, Jennifer Kathleen (December 27, 2013). "The Guyana Tragedy Myth". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. San Diego State University . Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  5. Yearbook of the Encyclopedia Americana (1981). The Americana Annual: An Encyclopedia of Current Events. Grolier. pp. Page 521.
  6. 1 2 Rich, Frank (April 14, 1980). "Ratings Gambit: GUYANA TRAGEDY: THE STORY OF JIM JONES". Time Magazine . Time Warner.
  7. Lundius, Jan; Mats Lundahl (1999). Peasants and Religion. Routledge. pp. Page 311. ISBN   0-415-17411-2.
  8. Franks, Don (1996). Entertainment Awards: A Music, Cinema, Theatre and Broadcasting Reference, 1928 Through 1993. McFarland & Co Inc Pub. pp. Page 56.
  9. Trivia for The 32nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Internet Movie Database, Amazon.com. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
  10. Awards for Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, Internet Movie Database, Amazon.com. Retrieved June 10, 2007.