JONESTOWN MASSACRE

A telling part of Guyanese history to be a new film

SO MGM has signed Leonardo Di Caprio to command on screen the character of the infamous Reverend Jim Jones, in the embrace of a script by Scott Rosenberg. We have no idea where the stage designs, backdrops and definite location would be located. No, they don’t have to come here to film it. There are several places that they can use. However, it’s our history and regardless of the shock registered then, imaginary and the adopted concerns, we should explore it and benefit from its production. I’m stating this as an artist, and we understand that life has to be portrayed in its ugliness, which can enhance our intellect about a world filled with the weird that can exceed our usual nightmares. Guyana has not had a functional, all-inclusive operational Department of Culture that would mirror the Dolphins, Pilgrims, and Mildred Hunt in substance and drive for the past 29 years; culture and its related expressions such as medicine, engineering, or engineering managing a productive farm, cannot be readily adopted towards successful outcomes. Thus, to the reader, especially those in the performing arts, a collective letter should be designed and sent through a significant source to the desk of that authority at MGM, and to, as they say in that world, to Di Caprio’s people, this suggestion is not based on humour. There are similar landscapes in that area that can be utilised. I say this because the last time that I was in that area I was told that the actual site is leased or by some other means legally under the jurisdiction of one individual. How? I’m not sure.

Why should the arts in Guyana be interested in a Jim Jones film, apart from the fact that it is part of our history? The answer is simple, it’s an economic venture, Guyanese were involved, they played basketball on the Parade Ground with us, what’s that girl’s name – Deborah ‘Tuchet’ (spelt to phonetic memory) based on limited chit-chat. These were people who thought that they were escaping the more troubling ills of America to a simpler place to start over, a tropical paradise. Most of the locals of the Parade Ground posse wanted to go to America, it was interesting. The devil was the voice of the preacher, part socialist, part prophet, and part messiah, but a hundred percent inflated ego and psychopath. I’m not sure what Rosenberg wrote, but there will always be perspectives leading to the finale of Jonestown. Sometimes we must define a perspective from ourselves, but currently, before us, we have to as artists not abdicate this responsibility to engage the investors of this new film. In the absence of caretakers, we must seek substance.

The many documentaries I have seen so far have captured the private horrors of personal experience, told by Americans, and have been very instructive. None have explored the angle of bodies that the Americans could not identify. How many Guyanese died at Jonestown? Captain Paul is still around, and so are others. So far, our authorities have behaved as if we supplied the Kool-Aid. By the way, Guyana’s guilt is not being aware of the world beyond what our esteemed schools fashioned for us. That was the cultural end of Kool-Aid with most Guyanese. There are, however, two other incidents we should observe with clinical observation, especially those who are in the performing arts, and those looking for mystic interpretations of life through the medium of a prophet, first the California group in 1997, led by Marshall Herff Applewhite, whose profile indicated in a Time Magazine special report-April 7, 1997 described him as “Penalized for his sexuality, the future guru embarked on a quest for sexless devotion and an antiseptic heaven.” How did he convince 38 intelligent followers to commit suicide, so that they could join a UFO MOTHER SHIP of aliens? Diminishes the boast of ‘Stream learning’ that implies a much wider landscape of knowledge. There is another Prophet of doom closer to home; Awakaipu was an Arekuna Indian with a God complex who wanted to be the Chief of all the Tribes of British Guiana. He had worked with the Schomburgks. Awakaipu commanded the tribes to meet in the valley of the Kukenaam at the foot of Mount Roraima. He gave them charms made from pages of ‘The Times Newspaper’ that were used by Richard Schomburgk for pressing the wild flowers. He gave the audience cassiri to drink then urged them to kill each other, which afterwards they would rise from the dead as Europeans, in the end the tribes men executed Awakaipu. See – Michael Swan’s “The Marches of Eldorado” pages 243-245.
A movie such as the ‘Jonestown Massacre’ would be an important step forward in just seeking and to be able to facilitate an engagement or exchange. I would anticipate that this is not where this article will end.

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