It’s safe to say you have never seen anything like Wild Wild Country. This would still be the case if it were a drama. But the dawning astonishment that the events portrayed actually happened only deepens as the story unfolds, and never really goes away.
By the 1960s, rising affluence and cheapened international travel had brought idealistic young refugees from Western capitalism to the shores of India, and to the ashrams of its charismatic gurus. The most magnetic of these was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, or Osho. The young disciples were welcomed with genuinely open arms, but also open coffers, to support the mission of building a better kind of civilisation than the often broken one they had escaped.
But behind the free-loving scenes, Osho had a problem. The Indian authorities were aware that millions of dollars were flooding into his ashram in Pune. (You might have thought the fleet of pink, flower-festooned Rolls-Royces were a giveaway.) But the same flood of tax revenues in return, came there not. He needed a way to get the money out of the country at speed. So he dispatched a group of his most trusted lieutenants to ‘find new worlds to enlighten’. They made their way to the mountains of Oregon in the Pacific North-West, to acquire a 70,000-acre ranch on the edge of the town of Antelope (pop. 40). Whose locals, it’s also fair to say, had never seen anything like their new neighbours: up to 200,000 people looking to build a better world, in red robes and bare feet, given to open copulation and, when challenged, armed conflict.
The rest, let’s just say, has to be seen to be believed. Produced by indie talents the Duplass Brothers, it’s directed by Maclain and Chapman Way, with a notably powerful score. For Sam Wollaston in the Guardian, it is “an exhaustive and utterly absorbing piece of work. It is beautifully constructed and balanced… Yes, Rajneesh’s followers were dangerously obsessed, but they did build a functioning city very quickly in the middle of nowhere. The authorities who went after them don’t come over as angels, either.” In The Atlantic, Ronit Feinglass Plank describes the experience of the cult commune at first hand. Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone calls it “a true only-in-America story. God help us all.” For Must, it’s simply one of the best things on Netflix.
First shown April 2018.