Netflix has quickly become the go-to spot for finding a binge-worthy documentary or two; a few years ago they streamed the now famous Making a Murderer and at the weekend their documentary Icarus on the Russian doping scandal won an Academy Award.
And the latest offering from the streaming service looks like it will be another fantastic watch. It’s called Wild Wild Country and it’s about a controversial cult leader who built a utopian city in the Oregon desert, resulting in enormous conflict with the locals that escalated into a national scandal involving bioterrorism and even a political assassination plot.
Here’s the Netflix synopsis of the show:
“When the world’s most controversial guru builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, a massive conflict with local ranchers ensues; producing the first bioterror attack in US history, the largest case of illegal wiretapping ever recorded, and the world’s biggest collection of Rolls-Royce automobiles.
“Over six episodes, directors Chapman Way and Maclain Way (The Battered Bastards of Baseball) and executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass (Duplass Brothers Productions) take viewers back to this pivotal, yet largely forgotten moment in American cultural history, one in which our national tolerance for the separation of church and state was sorely tested.
”Wild Wild Country is historical filmmaking brought to life on an epic scale. It’s a tale so wild that seeing means barely believing.”
The creepy docuseries looks at Rajneeshpuram – a community established in the 1980s in Wasco County, Oregon, by Indian spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The community of his followers ballooned to more than 7,000 people, complete with shopping malls, restaurants and a fire department.
But conflict soon developed with local residents, environmental groups and the US government, who, in their own way, saw the group as a threat.
In 1984, followers of Rajneesh launched a bioattack on the local Oregon population by contaminating salad bars at ten restaurants with Salmonella. As a result of the attack, 751 people were infected and 45 were hospitalised.
And in another outrageous twist, followers of the group even tried to assassinate Charles Turner, the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, who was leading the prosecution of the bioterror attack.
Basically, this docuseries sounds absolutely wild but it also raises some important questions. As Neil Meiklejohn, who edited the series, told Filmmaker magazine:
“I think the biggest take away is how much the story is still relevant today. The issues surrounding Rajneeshpuram (immigration, freedom of religion, land use, and cultural differences) are major issues in our news today. The Rajneeshpuram story is an American story and asks the viewer to take a serious look at the foundation of this country.”