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‘Wild Wild Country’: what you need to know if you’ve been living under a rock

The story that defies belief and the documentary everyone is talking about.
Wild Wild Country on Netflix
Wild Wild Country is on Netflix

“Wild Wild Country” is the most talked about show on Netflix right now. From its masterful cinematography to its incredible archival footage, intriguing first person interviews from those involved and meticulous pacing, the story is so bizarre you’ll be double checking facts on your cell after each episode to see if it’s actually real.  

 

Here’s what you need to know (spoilers ahead)

Wild Wild Country on Netflix

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Who: A quiet town is shattered by the arrival of a pro-capitalist free-sex advocating religious group led by the enigmatic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who also like to dress in maroon. Everyone from the local mayor to the founder of Nike to the producer of “The Godfather” gets a word in, but the most significant player is Ma Anand Sheela, whose unapologetic, sinister charm drives the narrative.  

 

Where: The events unfold in rural Oregon, when the Rajneeshees, originally based in Pune, India, buy the rural Big Muddy Ranch and transform it into a new city called Rajneeshpuram, with its own airfield, lakes, farmland, housing and medical labs. In order to control the local government, the group took over the small town of Antelope (population, 40) changing its name to Rajneesh, before setting its sights on controlling local Wasco County. Currently streaming on Netflix.   

 

When: The documentary focuses on events that took place from 1981 to 1985. During that time, tensions about religious sects ran high in the wake of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre.   

Wild Wild Country on Netflix

Why it’s important: This Netflix exclusive covers the story behind the first major bio-terrorist attack in American history, one of its biggest election and immigration fraud cases, while also showing the fragility of democracy, the separation of church and state and how power corrupts.  

 

What happens: What doesn’t happen? The six episodes chart the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, the creation of the city, the conflict with locals, and the attempt to control Wasco County by bussing in the homeless to throw an election. When that fails, some members attempt to poison the local community, begin a plot to assassinate government officials, and the FBI & DA move in. The group implodes, the Bhagwan makes a run for it, Sheela is arrested and jailed, and Rajneeshpuram collapses.  

 

Anything else?: There’s some graphic footage shown in Part Two some might find triggering.   

Wild Wild Country on Netflix

Here are the most eye-popping scenes from each episode: 

Part One: Sheela’s Opera analogy. “Rajneeshpuram is a big living Opera. Sheela is the soprano. Bhagwan, a tenor. Rajneeshpuram, the setting. Operas are, at the end, always tragic… I would like to say ‘People of Oregon, think yourself lucky this opera came your way!’”   

Part Two:  When the daughter of Leo Ryan, the California Senator assassinated in Jonestown, is revealed to be living in Rajneeshpuram as a follower of the Bhagwan. 

Part Three: The Rajneeshees put sedatives in the beer they give the homeless.  

Part Four: Sheela flees to Germany; the Bhagwan declares her a criminal.  

Part Five: Plenty, but the most absurd is the blended beaver water supply story.  

Part Six: Rajneesh Puram is now used as a camp for Christian teens.