Netflix is set to premiere a series called “Wild Wild Country” this month that tells the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the largest bioterror attack in U.S. history. In 1984, more than 700 people in The Dalles, OR, contracted Salmonella infections after followers of Rajneesh sprinkled the pathogen on salad bar ingredients in 10 local restaurants. The action was an effort to swing the results of an election. The documentary premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, will be available to stream on Netflix March 16.
The life of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, who attracted thousands of followers to his ashrama headquartered in Wasco County, Oregon, from 1981 to 1985, has intrigued many for years. The new Netflix documentary is a series about the “controversial cult leader who built a utopian city in the Oregon desert, resulting in conflict with the locals that escalated into a national scandal.”
On a quiet day in 1981, disciples of Rajneesh suddenly appear in the small, conservative Oregon town of Antelope, dressed in all red and with portraits of their leader hanging from their necks. This, of course, makes the townsfolk uneasy, reads the series’ description on sundance.org.
The documentary goes on to show how Rajneesh’s followers spent over $125 million to build Rajneeshpuram, a 64,000-acre utopia, complete with a hospital, schools, restaurants, a shopping mall, and their own airport. The spokesperson for the movement is Ma Anand Sheela, a fearless disciple whose belief in the principles of Rajneesh are only outweighed by her feisty spirit.
It also highlights how in order to stack the results of county elections in their favor, the Rajneesh bus brings thousands of homeless people onto the ranch. When these new recruits are denied voting rights by the state, Rajneesh leaders surreptitiously infect local restaurants with salmonella, resulting in the largest biochemical terrorist attack on the U.S. soil.
The six-part docu-series, for which Netflix used archival footage and contemporary interviews, is directed by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way and produced by Juliana Lembi.
“Wild Wild Country,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, is “something wild, indeed,” and is “full of unbelievable twists and intriguingly short on easy answers.”