Paul VanDeCarr, Pam Harris, and the African-American Coalition for Health Improvement and Empowerment (AACHIE) collaborated to create After Jonestown, a documentary film on the legacy of the Jonestown, Guyana tragedy, where some 900 Americans–members of the People’s Temple in San Francisco–died in a mass murder/suicide. The project focused on the mental health issues the tragedy left behind, particularly in San Francisco’s African American Community.
Reverend Jim Jones had moved the People’s Temple from Indiana to California in 1965. The Temple supported racial integration, managed lauded social service programs, and was politically influential because of its dedicated congregation and savvy pastor. After the deaths, the stigma attached to Jonestown, racism, and a lack of services available to survivors and relatives combined to prevent thousands of San Franciscans affected by the tragedy from grieving. The result was a serious, under-recognized mental health problem for the Bay Area.
Co-director Paul VanDeCarr is a writer and researcher, former reporter and assignment editor for KPFA Radio News, and founder and coordinator of “Telling the Story.” The collaborators were able to produce the film trailer and participated in public forums about Jonestown, but were unable to raise the funds needed to complete an hour-long documentary.
AACHIE was a community-based coalition in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s African American Health Initiative. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of African Americans in San Francisco by integrating an African-centered and cultural approach to prevention and health promotion.