Movie: Wild Wild Country
My Rating: 4 stars
This is actually a new documentary series streaming on Netflix, instead of a movie. But, I found it interesting enough that I wanted to write about it here. I was already a bit familiar with this story, since I listened to Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds talking about it on their podcast, The Dollop. But, episodes of that podcast usually run about an hour long. So, at nearly six times that length, this series is able to delve much deeper into the topic of the Rajneeshpuram commune that started in Oregon in the 1980s, and all the mayhem that surrounded its rise and fall.
This really is a fascinating documentary. At first glance, a viewer may be led to believe that this is a simple story about a new-age community, and the uptight townspeople that reject it as a “cult,” and object to its sinful ways. And, of course, that is exactly how this story starts. But, this story very quickly spirals out of control, and each new episode is crazier than the last. And, unless you’re already very familiar with this story from when it happened in the 80s, you’ll never guess the wild new twists and turns it takes.
The thing I like best about this documentary is that it isn’t obviously trying to make viewers side with one side over the other. One episode will present the absolutely ridiculous behavior of the Rajneeshees, and then the very next will examine the poor behavior of the townsfolk. I found my allegiance flipping at many points throughout the series. And, I think it was created that way by design. Of course, the ultimate lesson we learn by the end is that both sides were pretty insane. Both sides had valid arguments, but both were also behaving rather badly when in direct conflict with teach other. The whole series really is a lesson in considering the source of information you rely on or being aware of the possible biases in reporting. So, if anything, this documentary series teaches one to be a bit more mindful. But, it’s also a pretty wild story.
I definitely recommend you watch this series. At six episodes, it initially feels a bit long for a simple story about a commune that is having conflicts with the surrounding community. But believe me when I tell you that they absolutely do have enough material to fill out the whole six episodes. You almost won’t believe your ears when you hear some of this stuff. It’s a good time, and definitely worth the investment of time.