Netflix has given us a plethora of darkly fascinating true crime stories over the years, but little could have prepared the world for the story of the Rajneeshpuram sex cult in 2018 documentary Wild, Wild Country. The documentary introduced us to a bevvy of dangerous individuals, including one Ma Anand Sheela. Years after the group’s infamous downfall, Sheela is ready to tell her side of this twisted tale.
Wild, Wild Country followed the rise and fall of the Rajneeshpuram under leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Based in Oregon and open to all, Rajneesh’s group of “"neo-sannyasins” lived on a commune and practised open love while worshipping their powerful guru. Sheela was his second-in-command and wielded her power to extreme limits. In the documentary, we learned that her plans to expand the influence of the Rajneeshpuram allegedly included wiretapping, arson, attempted murder, and bioterrorism. She was eventually convicted for her crimes and sentenced to 20 years behind bars, but Sheela only served 29 months of the sentence; since her release, she's lived and worked in Switzerland.
New Netflix documentary Searching For Sheela sees the former Rajneeshpuram chairwoman returning to the spotlight to discuss her role in the cult's undoing. The project approaches the drama from her perspective, trying to pick apart exactly why Sheela went to such extremes to further the group's radical agenda.
"[The] world sees me from their point of view," Sheela explains in the trailer for the forthcoming project. "I had a number of hardships after I left Bhagwan, but history is not written for my part. It is Bhagwan's history, not Sheela's history."
Though it's hard to imagine Sheela's actions being anything but criminal and dangerous based on what we know of the Rajneeshpuram, Searching For Sheela will attempt to add a level of nuance to the events of that time, uncovering Sheela's personal motivations. It won't be the first project to examine the former cult leader's narrative, either; Priyanka Chopra is teaming up with Amazon Studios for a film about Sheela and the Rajneeshpuram.
It's time to pick up where Wild, Wild Country left off.
Searching For Sheela will be available for streaming on April 22, only on Netflix.