A strong sect of thousands of members, excesses of all kinds, confrontations with the inhabitants of a remote town in the United States, and even a bioterrorist attack. It’s “Wild Wild Country”, a documentary to discover on Netflix.
Antelope, a tiny town of 46 inhabitants located in Oregon, lives away from the world. In this deep and conservative America, we are proud of our roots. Viscerally attached even. A quiet town, in the middle of nowhere.
A tranquility hitherto in regular cut, which will be brutally awakened by the arrival of an Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who calls himself “Osho”. His influential assistant, answering to the name of Ma Anand Sheela, buys a vast ranch of 25,000 hectares called “Big Muddy Ranch”, which will be developed and urbanized, becoming a locality called “Rajneeshpuram”.
A perfect place to welcome the thousands of followers of his movement founded in western India, in Pune, which offers what he calls “dynamic meditation”. Meditation conferences to elevate and nourish the soul, of course. But without forgetting either the wallet: he is nicknamed “the man with 90 Rolls-Royces”, while his fortune will be estimated, at his death, at 1 billion dollars. Spiritual foods have their limits…
A city within the city
Whatever. For Westerners in search of spiritual renewal and receptive to the guru’s speeches, Big Muddy Ranch has become the Promised Land. The place will thus have up to 30,000 inhabitants, and will develop massively, hosting a supermarket, a bank, a pizzeria, and even its own guard armed to the teeth, dressed in their red clothes…
The installation of the hippies within Rajneeshpuram is obviously not seen with a good eye by the inhabitants of Antelope and the neighbors of the region, who do not intend to let it go… From tensions to confrontation, culminating in massive immigration fraud and even a bioterrorist attack. Ma Anand Sheela, the powerful right arm of the guru, will indeed be suspected of being at the origin of a salmonella poisoning on more than 750 people. It will also be, quite officially, the first bioterrorist attack in history in the United States.
Producers and directors of Wild Wild Country, Jay and Mark Duplass, were notably the authors of Togetherness and behind the chilling documentary series Les Génies du mal. Broadcast on Netflix, it told the story of Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man who, in 2003, robbed a bank with a bomb tied around his neck.
Consisting of six episodes, Wild Wild Country demonstrates a very impressive investigative work carried out over four years. Because the case, widely relayed at the time by the local and national media, gave an incredible material of video archives (more than 300 hours of rush!), in particular on the side of the journalists, who had the authorization to walk within the ranch to collect the words of the followers of the movement.
Between the witnesses and actors of the time, repentant or still active militants of the sect, the authors very intelligently confront the points of view, with the archive images, for an absolutely fascinating and staggering result, to discover on Netflix.