WILD WILD COUNTRY
Directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way, Wild Wild Country is the 6 part documentary TV series on Netflix that tells the story of Bhagwan Rajneesh (also known as Osho, and Rajneesh), a religious guru from India. He, along with his followers, known as either Sanyassians or Rajneeshees, made their way to the sleepy town of Antelope, Oregon in 1981. When these newcomers enter the small town, buying a large plot of land while dressed in all red, they began what is known as the Rajneesh movement and cult. What follows is an ensuing struggle between the citizens of Antelope and the newcomers, on the ownership and who gets to stay.
The series heavily relies on current day interviews from both townsfolk and those in the Rajneesh movement. Throughout the interviews we are allowed to see glimpses of what it was like to be in this town through the mixing of interviews and footage from the 1980’s. We are transported to a time where the American dream was alive, where marriage and having children were the norm in this conservative town of Antelope. We are taken back and forth from present day to past through this integration of photos, archives and current day interviews from the townsfolk and Rajneeshees.
“We have no idea that we were going to run into the largest poisoning case in the history of the United States, into the largest wiretapping case, and the largest immigration fraud that had occured in the United States” says Lynn Enyart, the then Head of the FBI Task Force.
It’s jarring and shocking to see the Rajneeshees, described by the townsfolk as a “somewhat suspicious group.” It makes one wonder what exactly is going on in this bizarre and dark part of American society hidden from the mainstream. What did Rajneesh do? What exactly are Rajneeshees? Did this really happen? How does poisoning, wire-tapping, attempted murder(s) and immigration fraud fit into this story?
The Large Cast of Characters
One of the biggest aspects of the series, is the interviewee’s it features. This series has people from both sides of the story: the townsfolk, government officials, those close to Bhagwan and fellow Sanyassians. Because there are so many people, it can get confusing at times to remember who did what and their backstory, however it does add more gravity to this series as we get to hear their perspectives. As the TV series progresses, certain personalities present themselves while others go to the background so the interviews are an integral way to understand how the story evolved and grew from people like the Antelope mayor, the US Attorney, Bhagwan’s secretary/spokesperson, Bhagwan’s personal attorney, and some who were almost murdered by the cult themselves.
Instead of getting just one person’s side of the story, we get all sides of the story, adding more depth to the series. It draws a clearer image of how turbulent life was like in small town of Antelope, Oregon for the townsfolk and what it was like for the Rajneeshees, moving from India to Oregon. It’s shocking and scary hearing the townsfolk say things like, “we have to make sure that evil does not win the battle” and “that woman is the closest thing to Hitler, I have ever seen in my life.” But on the other hand, the actions of the Rajneeshees escalates to dangerous and life threatening proportions.
Townsfolk vs. Rajneeshees
The first two people we meet are John Silvertooth, Antelope mayor, who was a witness to all that happened in the 1980’s and Ma Anand Sheela, known simply as Sheela, Bhagwan’s secretary and later spokesperson. Silvertooth and Sheela are people who would seem to have nothing in common, who would otherwise never meet, in part because of their backgrounds: an Oregonian and an Indian woman. It’s baffling to imagine that people like Silvertooth and Sheela, were fighting for the land and ultimately who gets to stay. This war escalates, becoming larger than the town itself, involving the FBI and numerous US Attorneys’. An escalating war between the townsfolk and the Rajaneeshee’s and even a war inside the Rajaneeshee group, sets the stage for an unbelievable but true story of the townsfolk of Antelope and the Rajneeshees.
Like this writer, if one enjoys true crime and human psychology documentaries, this is something to see. Cults, crime and ultimately human psychology are at the core of this series. Wild Wild Country seems to be geared especially to those true crime fanatics, telling an American cult, crime saga that seems too unbelievable to have actually happened in Oregon in the 1980’s.
Directed by CHAPMAN AND MACLAIN WAY
Executive Producer MARK DUPLASS
Producer JULIANA LEMBI
Cinematography ADAM STONE
Editor NEIL MEIKLEJOHN
In association with DUPLASS BROTHERS PRODUCTIONS
Available now on Netflix
All photos courtesy of Netflix