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Netflix’s New Documentary Leaves Audience Stunned

‘Wild Wild Country’ Reveals a Seemingly Innocent Cult’s Dark Past

Samantha Swainson, Ad Manager

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‘Wild Wild Country’ is a stunning cinematic work introducing us to the mind-boggling effect of greed, manipulation and infatuation in cult settings. The documentary recounts the saga of the rise of the Rajneesh cult with their beliefs in encouraging spirituality, sexuality and capitalism.  The “religionless religion” practiced meditation, silence and free love, becoming what the FBI called the “Largest poisoning case in the history of the United States, the largest wiretapping case, and the largest immigration fraud that occurred in the United States.”

In 1958, the Rajneesh movement began innocently enough with public speaking by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in India. His words of the quality of love, spirituality, anti-socialism, anti-Gandhi evoked extreme feelings of devotion to his physical being by an international community. Establishing his oasis in Puram, people from across the world abandoned family, divorced, renouncing their contemporary lives, to visit his sanctuary.

The entrance of teenage follower, Ma Anand Sheela, to his commune changed the game as she rose through the hierarchy and moved the operation to Oregon, to begin building an 80,000-acre city in the name of Bhagwan. The tiny population of Oregonians were unprepared to face the devout, yet seemingly wild, lifestyle of these outsiders. Violence erupted with the use of guns, explosives and poison amongst the surrounding townspeople and the Rajneeshees drawing the attention of the world.

The documentary brought the story alive with the use of past and present footage. Shockingly, the perpetrators of the violence hold little regret of their past actions. Watching, viewers are horrified by the bigotry displayed by the Oregonians towards the Rajneesh people until interviews with those left from the cult revealed the same discrimination in reverse. The knowledge that delicate, grey-haired Jane Stork, volunteered to carry out two assassination attempts, leaves the audience incredulous. The fervor of Ms. Sheela’s adoration for Bhagwan, this seemingly kind grandmother figure, lead her to maim the individual freedom of generations.

The ordeal isn’t simply a story about insiders and outsiders, religious freedom versus xenophobia. The intricate tale is a battle on land and in the courts, between the Bhagwan and Sheela, the blind devotion of his followers and their own consciences.

The events playing out in the humdrum state of Oregon, was the reality TV of the time. The cult traditions of group sex and spiritual release fascinated and repelled those of the time, leading those to react with instinctive violence to protect their American values. The footage is chaotic, giving us an inside look of the primal instincts released by each faction to preserve their character.

Filmmakers, Chapman and Maclain Way, have taken this ludicrous story amassed hours of footage, trials in the form of legal battles and recounting the past, into a digital testament of the effects of corruption found in cults.

These compiled clips flow from one mind-blowing piece to the next, shaping the story into the view of whoever was talking and reinforcing it with seemingly celebratory or malevolent music.

The directors perfectly portrayed the paranoia and fanaticism that ran rampant amongst the citizens of Rajneeshpuram and Antelope Oregon, displaying the essence of the violence generated by it being the corruption amidst the Rajneeshees. The debacle is a reflection of what our country is facing today with threats from inward and out, with the question of American values on the line.

“With every crown comes the guillotine. Without the guillotine you cannot wear the crown, and that was my fate,” Sheela said. “But why does one have to put somebody under the guillotine? Because of their strength. They want to destroy their strength”

 

4 Stars

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Netflix’s New Documentary Leaves Audience Stunned