Wild Wild Country

 

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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers in India. Photo: Netflix.

One of my guilty pleasures is the true crime documentary, and some excellent examples of the genre recently have been Making a Murderer, The Keepers, and Wormwood (all streaming on Netflix). Wild Wild Country is not true crime per se; it’s more a historical documentary series, but there are certainly some crimes mixed in with the history. It is absolutely fascinating. Although the fairly shocking events that form the series’ focus happened in my lifetime, in the early 1980s, I don’t remember hearing a thing about them. I’ll chalk that up to being a self-absorbed teenager who wasn’t paying attention to anything outside her own life yet. If you, too, were alive but oblivious — or if you’re too young to have heard the story of the Rolls Royce guru and his followers — do yourself a favor: stay away from Google and set aside some viewing time.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was an Indian guru who had started an ashram in Poona, India, in the 1970s. After running afoul of Indian authorities, he moved his operation to rural Oregon. There, with the help of his fearless right-hand woman, a force of nature named Ma Anand Sheela, his movement attracted more followers, built a city, and managed to get involved in power struggles over land use and autonomy that escalated to the point where the feds got interested.

I’ll leave the recap there, because I don’t want to give any spoilers. The series has its drawbacks: if you want context about Rajneesh and his movement, you’ll need to consult the Internet, but do so after watching. The series tries very hard not to play favorites or cast anyone as the villain — a choice that’s commendable for its objectivity, but perhaps a bit irresponsible. I’ll let you decide.

And Caleb Blood, if you’re reading this: I think the music is really good. It’s by someone named Brocker Way. Check it out.

Ma Anand Sheela: I have been accused of a laundry list of heinous crimes — of course, all of them attempted. Normally, I succeed in what I do. That is a joke.

— Wild Wild Country

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