FRED Watch Quickie TV Review: Wild Wild Country (2018)

THE TRUTH IS WILDER THAN FICTION…

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s TV series is the documentary Wild Wild Country

Duplass Brothers Productions / Netflix

Under the organisation and co-ordination of his secretary Ma Anand Sheela, Indian spiritual leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s disciples build the grand commune Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, the United States, which eventually becomes its own city.

It isn’t long for tensions to escalate as the sannyasins (also known as Rajneeshees) and the Oregonians vie to survive one another…

‘Sheela, whatever your plans are, we don’t want the Rajneeshees. We don’t want the Orange People in our town,’ 60 Minutes journalist Ian Leslie tells the polarising Ma Anand Sheela.

Her reply: ‘What can I say? Tough titties.’

And in an instant, Sheela propelled a phrase into the Australian lexicon. But Sheela and the social and spiritual movement she was the spokesperson for are far more complex and intriguing than a simple, albeit catchy, soundbite.

Filmmakers Maclain and Chapman Way do a stellar job at weaving an extraordinary tale into a compact and comprehensive six-part documentary series. Wild Wild Country is a tangled web of spirituality, sex, and secrets that is unpacked through a number of interviews and an incredible amount of archival footage.

The four-year period that this documentary focuses on is fraught with so many emotions from those who lived it, that it says so much about the will of ideology-driven people that Wild Wild Country touches on far more themes than you would initially expect.

The series benefits from the participation of the soft-spoken Sheela, the most vocal person from the time and, unsurprisingly, one of the more fascinating interviewees. Even by the end of it, I found it difficult to assess if she is misunderstood or a sociopath. But decades later and, on an intimate level, Sheela remains intriguingly charismatic.

Even more interesting is Jane Stork, whose narrative deserves a film of its own; every detail is as compelling as it is sincere. The climax of her story—a crime that is reflection of her loyalty to Sheela—has to be heard to be believed from the seemingly docile Stork.

And it is the eclectic group of people willingly or coincidentally drawn together because of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh that is at the heart of Wild Wild Country. But Bhagwan’s personal allure is difficult to capture here; this is left up to his (past and present) followers to articulate.

A complex tale that doesn’t quite feel resolved, perhaps because his legacy has not waned (and it looks as though it never will), but Wild Wild Country is a surprising and engaging wild, wild ride. 4 / 5

Starring: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh/Osho, Ma Anand Sheela, George Meredith, Jon Bowerman, Krishna Devi, Ma Prem Hasya, Kelly McGreer, Rosemary McGreer, John Silvertooth, Jane Stork/Ma Shanti B, Ma Prem Sunshine, Philip Toelkes.

Directors: Maclain Way, Chapman Way | Executive Producers: Dan Braun, Josh Braun, Ben Cotner, Adam Del Deo, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Lisa Nishimura | Music: Brocker Way | Cinematographer: Adam Stone | Editor: Neil Meiklejohn

Available: Netflix

Let us know what you thought of this series in the comments!

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

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