Netflix is churning out quality documentary series at a rate of knots. It all began with the superhit Making A Murderer and depending on your tastes includes The Keepers and Icarus among other noteworthy tales. Wild Wild Country is the latest and it keeps the quality high. Focussing on the Oregon Commune of Rajneeshpuram in the early 80’s it uses first-hand evidence and historical footage to tell the tale of how this commune headed by the Indian Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh managed to quickly build up a fully functioning city-state in backwater America.
Charting the tale from the communes beginnings in India right through to the bitter end in Antelope Oregon, this series really makes you think about whose side you would have been on. It is not the simple case of Americans and Conservative Americans being afraid of anything that is different. There are certainly elements of that but what makes this such an interesting watch is the details that begin to emerge about the goings on within the commune and in particular the character of Ma Anand Sheela, the guru’s right-hand woman and matriarch for the commune.
With direct access to her through present-day interviews, you make your mind up about what kind of person she is, then as soon as you have a handle on this evidence comes in that makes you doubt what you have just seen. It really poses the question ‘What If The Conservative American Viewpoint was correct this one time?’
In this day and age, it is inconceivable that such a thing could happen. A city basically springs up in the American countryside then it becomes populated by maroon-clad inhabitants. The nearby town of Antelope with its population of 40 people had no chance when it came to co-existing with near 5-10 thousand commune members in their back garden. The tensions in the modern world are such now that immigration and the fear of difference are very topical points and this series hits them all. You have to see things from both sides if you are to understand the whole picture. It is too easy to call the residents of Antelope bigots and racists when listening to the members of Rajneeshpuram describe them as equally, it is easy to call the commune members Satanists and basically depraved hippies and cult members when listening to the other side.
Without spoiling anything the later episodes really dig into what was going on behind the scenes and throws in a number of characters like the co-founder of Nike and the attorney general of the US at the time. It is another high-quality piece of television and should be binge-watched as soon as possible before the rest of your work colleagues do. If anything the footage of a massive settlement springing up in the desert of Oregon is a wonder which I struggle to believe happened.