Every once in a while, a documentary comes along that literally drops your jaw. Wild, Wild Country is one of those documentaries, and like Making A Murderer before it, it’s not necessarily the quality of the filmmaking that leaves you reeling… it’s the real-life events.
That’s not to say Wild, Wild Country isn’t well-made – it is, but what’s most impressive is how sibling directors, Chaplain and Maclain Way let the history tell the story, then hit you with huge, game-changing revelations right before an episode’s end. It does exactly what the best, serialised documentaries should do. It directs the audience’s understanding one way before dropping a “No fucking wayyyy” reveal. The result – binging another episode despite the fact it’s already 7 am and you should have been asleep hours ago.
Wild, Wild Country is the story of how a group led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (aka Osho) and his personal secretary, Sheela Silverman (Ma Anand Sheela), purchased the Big Muddy Ranch; 64,000 acres of central Oregon land in a bid to build its own, self-sufficient Shangri-La.
Like David Koresh, the American media vilified Bhagwan as a sex guru leader of a cult. His thousands of followers were not naked hippies, they were progressives who wanted to build a better society.
They built a town to house 50,000 people, complete with an airport, pink-shirted police force, Buddha Hall to house 10,000 meditators, roads, sewage system and intelligent farming that brought life back to the wasteland region via irrigation. Then they ousted the local councillors but sleepy America doesn’t like to be challenged, so you know what happened next…
LIKE THE BEST DOCU-SERIES – WILD, WILD COUNTRY LEAVES YOU TORN
As the six-part, hour-long series goes on, the narrative becomes darker and darker. Petty politics from the bemused local residents of Antelope town (population 40) leads to religious persecution, xenophobia, fire-bombings and death threats. Thirty-five years on, the directors pulled a major coup in tracking down fire-brand Sheela, other followers and the (still highly bemused) residents of Antelope.
What Wild, Wild Country expertly achieves is leaving you constantly torn between the Rajneeshees and the locals. Are the cultists really in search of a better world or are they evil usurpers threatening society? Or is it the locals and the lawmakers (who, like the rest of America have conveniently forgotten they too are immigrants and that they kicked the real landowners off generations ago)
I’m only halfway through the series and there are already building and training an army. The poisonings are yet to come! I had no idea that this was the same Osho from the Youtube videos that new-age hippies still lap up. Yes, he has some helpful advice but it’s clear to me he was a raging, narcissistic cult-leader and mad-man. For further evidence, he was a hypnotist before he became a guru. Remember – “all gurus are charlatans”.
I hope the series delves into Osho’s credentials, but the series will most likely leave answers ambiguous.
With its fake news, blazon racism and no clue that they themselves are also immigrants, Trump’s America of 2018 is the perfect home for Wild, Wild Country as so much similar hatred is coming home to roost.
Wild, Wild Country is available on Netflix now.