Netflix’s Rajneeshee documentary ‘Wild Wild Country’ wins an Emmy Award

Netflix’s Rajneeshee documentary 'Wild Wild Country' wins an Emmy Award

“Wild Wild Country” a Netflix documentary on Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers in Oregon, has won in the outstanding documentary or nonfiction series category.The six-part “Wild Wild Country,” whose executive producers include Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, even inspired a “Saturday Night Live” parody.

The show, based on the spiritual guru who attracted thousands of followers to his ashrama headquartered in Wasco County, Oregon, from 1981 to 1985, won the award for ‘Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.’

“Wild Wild Country” shows how when, one fine day in 1981, disciples of Rajneesh, dressed in red and carrying their leader’s portrait, descend on the small town of Antelope, making the locals very uneasy.

The story, full of unbelievable twists, further showcases how a 64,000-acre utopia called Rajneeshpuram was built, which housed a hospital, schools, restaurants, a shopping mall, and an airport.

The arrival of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers in Oregon may have been traumatic and outrageous where locals were concerned, but “Wild Wild Country,” the Netflix documentary that revisits the saga, just won an Emmy award.

Longtime Oregonians have their own memories of everything that happened in the early 1980s when the Bhagwan, Ma Anand Sheela, and the rest descended on Wasco County, taking over the town of Antelope, and setting up the Rajneeshpuram compound.

For those who weren’t living here, the story seems so bizarre it’s hard to believe, which is part of the reason why “Wild Wild Country” caused such a stir when it began streaming on Netflix, in March.

Filmmakers Chapman Way and Maclain Way, who had already made an Oregon-set documentary with their entertaining history of the Portland Mavericks, “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” used archival news footage and reports (notably from the Oregonian, which covered the Rajneeshee story extensively) to tell the strange-but-true tale of crime, would-be assassination plots, land-use battles, and more.

The brothers also filmed new interviews with Ma Anand Sheela — who changed her name to Sheela Birnstiel and moved to Switzerland after she got out of prison — true believer Swami Prem Niren (aka Philip J. Toelkes), some some Antelope-area residents and former Oregonian reporter Les Zaitz. An edited replay of the two-night Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremonies aired at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 on FXX.

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