‘Cult Massacre: One Day in Jonestown’ Director on Most Shocking Revelations in Jim Jones Docuseries

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Jim Jones led his followers to the remote jungle commune at Jonestown, Guyana, isolated from any other society. However, this false utopia turned into a living hell. California’s Rep. Leo Ryan, reporters and others concerned for the well-being of those in the Peoples Temple decided to investigate rumors of abuse. What happened next left more than 900 people dead including cult leader Jones himself.

The tragic events of November 18, 1978, are explored in the third installment of the “One Day In America” franchise with Cult Massacre: One Day in Jonestown. The three-part docuseries delves into the horrific story through the words of survivors, eyewitnesses, archival footage, and rare recordings of Jim Jones. Here director Marian Mohamed reveals some of the most eye-opening elements that make this a hard but must-watch.

This is a story that has been covered heavily over the years. What do you think stands out about this doc’s approach? 

Marian Mohamed: I think we’re living in the documentary boom at the moment. People are watching them now more than ever. What we’re doing with this series that I think is very different is we’re telling the story entirely through the perspective of the survivors. There are no experts or pundits. Just the people in the story. We’re telling it through testimony and archive footage. My team and I spent a long time going through footage from the 1970s and trying to identify everyone. You see each person you meet today in the footage. You see them then and now, so that brings a fresh perspective. I think we look at these tragedies slightly differently today. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago it’s looked at as a cult suicide-massacre. I think you see it’s a lot more complicated and society looks at victims differently in these kinds of situations.

You make it a point in the doc to say that this isn’t considered a mass suicide but mass murder. How was it for them to open up in this setting and revisit such a traumatic time? Did it help you had this body of work you were able to show them to give them peace of mind and that they would be in a safe space? 

You’re right. That absolutely did help to have the body of work we did make. We’ve tackled some very sensitive subjects. There have been other documentaries done, but even 45 years on, it’s just as difficult and challenging. I think that was a shock to our system as well. We try to explain our approach. We mention to them how we are searching for archival footage of them. Sometimes we show them footage they haven’t seen before. That helped. We were doing our own research and really digging and it felt like conversation throughout. We try to be as respectful and honest and collaborative as we could be.

Content retrieved from: https://www.tvinsider.com/1139145/cult-massacre-one-day-in-jonestown-jim-jones-docuseries-hulu/.

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