Videos and Documentaries on Waco

TELEVISION MOVIES

In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco. The notorious made-for-TV movie was rushed out before the facts were in, and thus reflects an official line that was already collapsing. The movie depicts the ATF heroically; their bungling is swept under the rug. Its screenwriter has repudiated it.
Tragedia en Waco, Texas. Even without a translation for this Univision television movie, it is obvious that the film diverges wildly from the "real events" that it purports to be "based" on. Cult leader David "Coleman" rules his flock with two fanatical henchmen who quietly dispose of anyone who questions the "Master." Two journalists go undercover to expose him. Dull as well as distorted.

FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES

Day 51. Though not as widely known or distributed as The Big Lie, until it became notorious as Timothy McVeigh's favorite Waco documentary, prior to The Rules of Engagement it was considered among serious Davidian sympathizers to be the fullest, most accurate video on Waco. I am not as great a fan of either Day 51 or Rules as most pro-Davidians, and Day 51 lost me when it speculated that the people at Jonestown may actually have been murdered by the CIA as part of its MK-ULTRA program.
The FLIR Project. Released separately on VHS tape, but I understand, included on the DVD version of A New Revelation.
God Bless the New Mt. Carmel Church. This video covers the building of the new chapel on the site. Local news reports are interspersed with footage shot by volunteers themselves. Of interest to those who want to follow the rebuilding effort.
The Waco Incident. Produced by David Hall for KPOC-TV
Waco: The Big Lie. This was the most popular video on Waco, and had mixed effects. Many found its anti-government presentation compelling, but whenever the media wanted to debunk Waco "conspiracy theories," they turned readily to this video- particularly the notorious "flame-throwing tank." A pity they did not subject the government story to as much scrutiny.
Waco: The Big Lie Continues. Many people were hoping that Linda Thompson's second video would be more accurate, but instead it contained even more inaccuracies.
Waco: The Rules of Engagement. There are a couple of different cuts of this documentary, ranging from 90 minutes to 165 minutes.
Waco: A New Revelation. A sequel of sorts to Rules, and it was this documentary that revealed the information that prompted the 1999 Danforth "investigation."

SERIES DOCUMENTARIES

American Justice: Assault at Waco. On the plus side, the show tries to be even-handed, but I did not find this episode to be compelling.
As It Happened: Waco. This program is based on CBS reports from Waco. Since CBS is the most pro-government and anti-Davidian network, it is naturally very flawed.
Biography: David Koresh. This episode is problematic, for instance making much of a supposed childhood stuttering problem, when in fact David's handicap was dyslexia.
48 Hours. During the siege, 48 Hours broadcast at least one show from Waco. I hazily remember watching it, but most of the specifics of it have blended in with the other coverage at the time.
Fox News: Waco. I know that Fox News aired a program on Waco after the tenth anniversary, but I wasn't able to catch it.
Frontline: Waco, The Inside Story. Despite promos implying that it tells the "real" or "full" story of Waco, it really focuses solely on the conflict between patient FBI negotiators and gung-ho tactical warriors. It should really be called the "outside" story, because only one Davidian from "inside" Mt. Carmel is interviewed during the program, while every other person is an FBI agent or other law-connected official! To my surprise, many others found the show balanced, or even critical of the FBI, due to its sympathetic ear to the negotiators. However, the negotiator viewpoint is an alternate FBI viewpoint rather than a truly pro-Davidian or anti-government perspective.
I Remember: Waco. This is another CBS-based documentary, but I actually liked it, especially the first part of it, where one of the TV reporters on the scene the first day gives his recollections, and more footage from that day is shown than the normally run excerpts.
Mugshots: David Koresh. A sympathetic Court TV documentary. It has some footage not usually seen and some interesting reminiscences about David's early life, but does not go into enough detail for those looking for "hardcore" information about the siege.
Primetime Live: The Children of Waco. Aired for the tenth anniversary, unlike ABC's Turning Point shows, this was a total hatchet job.
Surviving Waco. This cable documentary is somewhat unusual in that it focuses on how the survivors have been dealing with the aftermath more than the siege itself. While there are some things they can be taken to task on, overall it adopts a sympathetic tone.
Time & Again. An episode on Waco and Oklahoma City was broadcast on MSNBC, but I did not get to see it because I was on my Waco trip. Actually, there may have been another show on Waco. During the Republic of Texas Embassy standoff in 1998, they promoted a Waco show that I don't remember being a combo with OKC.
Turning Point: The Untold Story of Waco. I feel that this is probably the best show on Waco broadcast on the major networks. It is far from perfect, but it does a good job of humanizing the Davidians. The show was slightly re-edited for the rerun, and that is the version being shown from time to time on cable.
Turning Point: The Truth About Waco. In the wake of Oklahoma City, Turning Point did a second program about Waco. I don't think it was as good as the first. The BATF allowed ABC to interview some of their agents for the show, and to make room they cut material reflecting the Davidian viewpoint.
20th Century with Mike Wallace: Heaven's Gate and Branch Davidian. The combination of dull, unperceptive narration and excerpts from biased CBS reporting makes for a waste of time.
20th Century with Mike Wallace: Guns and God. This show on Ruby Ridge and Waco is somewhat better than the other one, with the focus on government bungling, but still doesn't offer many insights.

TALK SHOWS

Donahue At least one show was done in the early days of the siege.
Jerry Springer Before he gave up any effort to be serious, he went to Waco to do an interview with Jesse Amen.
Maury Povitch: Answers in the Ashes Maury did a two-part show from Waco around early October 1993. Ron Cole, in his book Sinister Twilight, accuses the show of stabbing them in the back and seems to think it was a waste, but I thought some good information did get out.

WACO IN POPULAR CULTURE

Standoff. I only caught the first couple of minutes, but the movie is set up by a failed ATF raid on an apocalyptic cult, much like Waco.
In the Heat of the Night: "Give Me Your Life" [S7] In a two-hour episode, a cult comes to Sparta, and ultimately a standoff ensues.
First Wave: "Speaking in Tongues" [S1E6] This episode's plot seems to have some Waco inspiration. Cade Foster joins a cult he suspects is led by one of the alien infiltrators. The leader is presented as something of a pretty-boy Koresh, though the compound feels more Jonestown and the teachings sound Heaven's Gate-ish. As it turns out, the leader has gone renegade, and faces an alien enforcer as well as Foster.
Law and Order: "Apocrypha" [S4E7] A 1993 episode of this show was based on a cross between the original World Trade Center bombing and Waco. A car bomber is blown up in the parking garage of a building, and prosecutors decide they don't have enough direct evidence to convict her cult leader for the act. So they decide to charge him with "kidnapping" for brainwashing her, and thus also felony murder for her death. When the leader is convicted, his followers commit suicide. (Another episode, "Entrapment" [S7E9], obviously inspired by the plot against Farrakhan by Malcolm X's daughter, features a character who was a former member of the "Children of the Seventh Seal," a doomsday cult that stockpiled automatic weapons.)
Law and Order SVU: "Charisma" [S6E7] This episode seems like an attempt to come up with the most vile cult leader possible. He impregnates not just young girls, but his own offspring, orders a mass suicide/murder of the cult's children while he makes his own escape, and murders husbands so he can have the women to himself.
Seven Days: "Last Card Up" [S1E12] In this episode, which I didn't entirely catch, a cult standoff has ended in disaster, and so agent Parker is sent back in time to prevent it. The ATF is depicted as trigger-happy.
Walker, Texas Ranger: "In the Name of God" [S2E3] One of the early episodes involved Walker storming the "New Canaan" cult compound. Apparently, a single Texas Ranger can accomplish more than an entire federal army with tanks, helicopters, and sniper rifles, at least if that Ranger is Chuck Norris.
The X-Files: "The Field Where I Died" [S4E5] In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate Vernon Ephesian and his "Church of the Seven Stars." Mulder discovers that one of the cultists was his beloved in past lives.


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version:2/8/06