Americans who turned on the news on November 18, 1978, got one hell of a bombshell: Hundreds of members of Jim Jones' People's Temple lay dead in the Guyana jungle, an apparent mass murder/suicide. California U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and four others were also dead, shot by cult members as their entourage tried to flee Guyana to bring back Jonestown reports to U.S. authorities. All told, 913 people lost their lives in a single lethal afternoon.
The story sent shock waves around the world, but in San Francisco the tragedy had a particularly horrific impact. You see, before moving his flock to South America, Jim Jones was a local mover and shaker. His sect, headquartered at Geary and Fillmore streets, flourished thanks to the help of religious and civic leaders who accepted his largess and political support while ignoring disquieting tales of forced donations and beatings. Then-Assemblyman Willie Brown went drinking with Jones; Mayor Moscone appointed him to S.F.'s Housing Authority Commission. Jones even had a bulging file full of glowing stories from the local press.
Even now, 25 years after the tragedy, uneasy questions still linger: How was Jones able to fool the city's leaders? Just what kind of favors did he pull off for high-placed friends? And how have the events of 1978 continued to affect the lives of those connected with the massacre?
Filmmaker Paul VanDeCarr attempts to resolve these persistent issues with his documentary-in-progress After Jonestown. Using interviews, home movies, private and historic photographs, and archival footage, Jonestown charts the multiple and appalling ways the mass suicide has reverberated for its survivors, victims' families, and others. A panel discussion featuring VanDeCarr, former Temple members, and Jones' adopted son, Jim Jones Jr., will follow a screening of clips from the film at "Jonestown 25 Years Later: Its Impact on San Francisco," which starts at 6 p.m. at the Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4400 or visit www.sfpl.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Erotic poetry: Against the law?
Lenore Kandel is a bad, bad girl. She's so bad, she's good. In 1965, Kandel penned The Love Book, a poetry chapbook, which, according to writer Charles Perry, "read as if Elizabeth Barrett Browning had taken acid and set about to describe the sex act with relish as a cosmic event." The volume also resulted in the arrest of three booksellers (two at City Lights), whose trial went to the state Supreme Court. Love is back in print after 36 years of obscurity; a slide show and presentation illuminate the reprint -- a fancy, handmade affair. Feel the love at 3 p.m. at Vesuvio, 255 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. Admission is free; call 362-3370 or visit www.superstitionstreet.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
In the Neighborhood
Jack Hanley and Kate Fowle organized "17 Reasons" as a nod to the enigmatic. Named for the giant sign that until recently challenged logic from above the corner of 18th and Mission streets, the show involves "temporary interventions" into the urban space. Pieces include Joe Sola's exploding piñata in the shape of himself, Dean Hughes' work on clothes in thrift stores, and some sort of helium balloon shenanigan by Chris Johanson. Hanley and Fowle claim that the project is "intended to inspire inquiry into other hidden or obscure aspects of the neighborhood." The pranks begin at 3 p.m. at Jack Hanley Gallery, 395 Valencia (at 15th St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 522-1623 or visit www.jackhanley.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Before Ang Lee became the visionary behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or the roundly criticized maker of The Hulk), he wrote and directed a quiet, sweet little picture called The Wedding Banquet, which related the story of a gay man attempting to hide his sexuality from his parents by marrying a Chinese immigrant in need of a green card. The Wedding Banquet 10th Anniversary celebrates the film, one of the first Asian movies to break into the American art-house circuit, at a reception with Lee, a screening, and a sneak preview performance of The Wedding Banquet: The Musical. The celebration starts at 6 p.m. at Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $35-75; visit www.noodlemagazine.com.
-- Joyce Slaton