Today's Feature

Wild Wild Country

When a controversial cult leader builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal.

Ken Eisner

We don’t learn exactly what drew so many affluent young people to the Bhagwan Rajneesh’s commune or how that led to the takeover of a tiny Oregon town in the mid-1980s. But amidst impressive archival footage and contemporary sensationalism, this fascinating series bears neutral witness to an entire city being built from scratch, then dismantled. Whole worlds -- of rural prejudice, criminal opportunism, gun love, legal overreach, and genuine idealism -- are compressed in a still-too-skimpy six-plus hours. The late Christopher Hitchens (audio book excerpted here), who joined briefly, recalled an ashram sign reading “Leave shoes and minds at the door.”