Wild Wild Country, Netflix's 6-hour long docu-series has been a phenomenal hit across the world. For the last couple of months, the series has been the talking point of western media and has effectively established its creators, Chapman and Maclain Way, as the new faces of American documentary filmmaking.
Although their works show no sign of being amateurish, the Way brothers (as Chapman and Maclain as often known) are still the new kids on the block. They made their debut with the Battered Bastards of Baseball in 2014 and their only claim to fame happens to be their latest offering, Wild Wild Country.
For those of you who do not know, Wild Wild Country is a six-part documentary series which tells the fascinating story of an Indian guru aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh whose ‘cult’ followers, led by his dynamic secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, established the independent city of Rajneeshpuram in the United States (in the 80s) and later tried to take over an entire county in the state of Oregon.
Wild Wild Country, though a documentary, runs like a thriller Hollywood film and is very addictive and totally binge-worthy. During a recent telephonic conversation with CNN-News18.com, Way Brothers revealed why they chose to tell the story of Rajneeshpuram and what they thought of Osho. Here's what they had to say:
1. You made Wild Wild Country out of 300 hours of existing footage. If you could tell another story on Rajneeshees out of the same existing footage what story would it be?
Chapman: We have a six-hour long documentary in which we told three different stories of Rajneeshpuram. We talked about Bhagwan Rajneesh and his religious movement. We told the story of what it was like for the locals or Oregon citizens to experience Rajneeshpuram (especially with Rajneeshees taking over their city). Then we also got the story of government officials and what their experience was with Rajneeshpuram.
If we had more time we would have loved to have included a little more perspective on what it was like on an everyday basis for a regular sannyasin on the ranch. We would have focused on the hierarchical powers (of the commune) and included what the experiences of people were like.
2. Despite being a film about Rajneeshees, there is very little about the man Rajneesh himself. Why?
Chapman: The interesting part of the story was that it takes place between 1981 to 1985, when the guru had taken a vow of silence. He wasn't speaking to the press, and he wasn't speaking to his followers. He was really in seclusion. So what we did as filmmakers is that we resorted to an immersive style of storytelling in which we did not want to get too ahead of our story, nor did we want to give too much background. We really just wanted to drop the audience into whatever was happening at that moment. And the truth of the story is at that moment the Bhagwan wasn't speaking to the locals, nor was he speaking to his followers. So, we wanted the audience to experience the story as the characters in the documentary were experiencing it.
Maclain: When we talked to sannyasins about what their feelings for Bhagwan, it was almost hard to intellectualize or discuss him. I think they just felt a strong devotion and love for him like the Catholics feel for the pope, that Christians feel for Jesus or the Buddhist feel for Buddha. After a point, we just took them at their word about their feelings for Bhagwan.
3. Now that the documentary is already a success, have you heard from any Rajneeshees? What kind of reactions are you getting from them?
Chapman: We have received a lot of emails and Facebook messages from sannyasins all over the world. The great majority of them seems to be really grateful that the story is being told and being remembered and this utopian vision that they had set out to create is now in their consciousness again. Most of them are very proud of the documentary and are excited that people are talking about Osho again.
4. When you first met Ma Anand Sheela, how different was she from the footages of her that you had found before. Had she changed?
Chapman: When we started digitizing the footage from the archive, she was the first character we were sheerly fascinated by. Ma Anand Sheela, who was the personal secretary of the guru was also responsible for pretty much creating Rajneeshpuram. We got her on the phone and told her that we are interested in doing a long format series on the story of Rajneeshpuram and we would love to hear what these events were like for her, from her perspective.
I think she was excited, I think she saw this as an opportunity, as a platform to explain the story from her perspective. We flew out to Switzerland to meet with her and talk to her. When you meet her, you are very aware of how intelligent she is. She is very compelling and thought-provoking. She had very provocative beliefs and we were really excited as filmmakers to capture her character and her journey.
5. When you were researching for the docu-series, I assume you must have researched extensively on Osho. What are your personal opinions about him?
Chapman: Our perception was that Osho was a clear mirror and people projected their thoughts onto him. While talking to the sannyasin we thought of him as a wise, enlightened guru and when we talked to the Antelope citizens, they projected a lot of fear and evil onto him. I think he just reflected back what your projections were onto him. Initially, when the documentary starts out there is a very clear narrative of the Antelope residents opposing a 'cult'. Eventually, as the docu-series proceeds, another narrative is introduced, which is a he-said-she-said battle between Osho and Sheela. Were you afraid that introducing a new storyline so close to the end might take you away from the main narrative of Antelope residents vs the Rajneeshees?
Maclain: When we first set out to make the documentary series our primary focus was the building of Rajneeshpuram. We focused on those who came to Eastern Oregon to build this utopian ideal and their neighbors, who were the Antelope residents. Apart from this, we also talked about how Oregon's state government, as well as the central government, dealt with Rajneeshpuram. As a documentary filmmaker when you set out to tell a story, that remains your primary focus and you can only spend so many hours off of that story. However, I don't think we had the larger canvas once Rajneeshpuram collapsed. So, we dived into the whole post-Rajneeshpuram history of the sannyasins and I think we were able to capture it a little bit. But even the 90s and probably even up to today, (the story of Rajneeshees) will deserve a documentary series of its own.
6. So, Will we get to see another documentary series? Will you be making a prequel or a sequel to Wild Wild Country?
Chapman: We have told the story as we have interpreted it, it isn't the entire story of Bhagwan and Rajneeshpuram. There are so many stories to tell about his childhood, about his devotees in India. There is a lot of story after Rajneeshpuram. Hopefully, there are a lot of documentary filmmakers who will keep interpreting the story and furthering the story of Bhagwan.