This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre -- one of the most infamous mass murders in American history.
The tragedy's origin is rooted in San Francisco, however, its journey to the big screen comes by way of Norwegian filmmaker David B. Berget.Jonestown tells the story of Reverend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, a religious group headquartered in San Francisco, who in 1978 organized a mass killing/suicide at an airstrip in Georgetown, Guyana. A total of 909 Americans, including 200 children, who mostly died by apparent cyanide poisoning. The film depicts the 48 hours leading up to the event as seen through the eyes of a reporter. For Berget, a recent graduate of the American Film Institute, Jonestown is more than just his master's thesis. Instead it explores his curiosity in the mystique of organized religion and how people come together. "For me, it was important to never use the word cult and not pass judgment on either the people or Jim Jones," says Berget. He prefers that the film spark conversation and go beyond mere entertainment. The short film runs at 23 minutes and distribution plans are still unknown, although it soon starts its run around the international festival circuit including Berlin and Slamdance. Berget aims to use the exposure as an opportunity to turn Jonestown into a feature-length film. (A documentary about the massacre, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, was released in 2006). For those curious about the cast, just know that the film stars William Russ of Boys Meets World fame (Cory's dad) as slain congressman, Leo Ryan. Jonestown will have its premiere at AFI in Los Angeles and distribution plans to follow. Check out the trailer for Jonestown from David Berget here: