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Wild Wild Country provides a glimpse inside the Rajneesh cult

Your first reaction to Wild Wild Country, the six-part Netflix documentary about the rise and fall o..

Your first reaction to Wild Wild Country, the six-part Netflix documentary about the rise and fall of an Indian guru and his followers when they relocated to America in the 1980s, will probably be jaw-dropping disbelief. And if the series did nothing else then it would still suffice as gripping entertainment: told with impressive clarity and an eye for telling details, it's overflowing with little-known but shocking events.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh told his followers his spiritual teachings – a heady if seemingly contradictory mix of eastern spirituality, creative freedom, sexual healing and capitalist ambition – would lead to the ascent of "the New Man", and he built a huge following in India that attracted westerners throughout the 1970s. When political troubles threatened his position, he and his followers relocated to a ranch in rural Oregon in 1981, which soon brought them into conflict with the nearby town of Antelope, population 40.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and a few of his many followers in Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country.

Photo: Netflix

Local election vote-stacking, illegal development, armed harassment and mutual antagonism soon took root, as the Bhagwan's personal secretary and fixer Ma Anand Sheela began to push through the creation of a self-contained city. But because directors Maclain and Chapman Way take their time establishing this narrative, talking to most of the key figures involved inside and outside the orange-clad Rajneesh, the escalation has an orderly outlook. Even as events run out of control, it has a clear logic to those involved.

The series never makes assumptions. For many outsiders, for example, Bhagwan was a fraud and his fervent Rajneeshees cult members, but Wild Wild Country establishes the faith – in some cases still abiding – of his followers. The story is mapped out like a thriller, as Sheela's plans become more extreme and increasingly state and federal officials target the organisation. At its heart, it's about faith. Everyone involved believes in something, whether it's the Bhagwan's teachings or the U.S. legal system.

What fascinates audiences about the series, which has overcome Netflix's usual lack of advance promotion to become its most talked-about recent release, is how far people will go in the name of their beliefs. One veteran Rajneesh, West-Australian-born wife and mother Jane Stork, who was reborn as Ma Shanti B, recounts in great depth her ecstatic conversion and complete satisfaction, and how much the Bhagwan meant to her.

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So, we guess this means Beyonce and Jay-Z are OK then

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last..

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last weekend. As you'd expect, it's a statement.

There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.

Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.

Beyonce and Jay-Z on stage in France for the 2014 On the Run tour.

Photo: Rob Hoffman

Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.

The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.

Artwork for the album Everything is Love by The Carters, aka Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Photo: Karl Quinn


Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success. (more…)

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Rachel Griffiths: female characters are finally getting real on screen

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, P..

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Top of the Lake show that female characters are finally coming of age on Australian screens.

In a spirited speech at the launch of a new state government scheme to support more women directors in television, the actor-turned-director said it was exciting to see female characters move beyond "the typical tropes of 'likable, f—able, adorable'" to "more complex depictions of female experience" recently.

Happy to see "more complex depictions of female experience": Rachel Griffiths (left) with Leah Purcell at the launch of #SheDirects.

Photo: Louie Douvis

While she acknowledged there were male directors who created fresh and compelling women characters, Griffiths said the "male gaze" often reduced them to colouring the characters of their male counterparts.

"[They are created to] make him hot, make him authentic, make him empathetic, make him fatherly, make him conflicted, make him grieve," she said. "In the male gaze, we are so often not the gatekeepers; we're not the ferryman. Sometimes the mentor but usually only ironically, like Judi Dench's M…

"Under-written and under-observed, brought into our sexual awareness precociously and prepubescent in order to accommodate the male libido.


"Often in television we're used by lazy writers and producers who can think of nothing more interesting this week than 'let's have her have sex with X' or 'discover she's a lesbian – for an episode'."

Griffiths, who is about to begin editing the Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like A Girl after finishing the shoot, endorsed Hollywood star Sandra Bullock's recent comment that it was time for women to "stop being polite" about gender equality. (more…)

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Rachel Maddow breaks down on air over Trump immigration policy

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest development..

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest developments in the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

Maddow, who hosts her own show on MSNBC, was reading from a breaking news release from the Associated Press that revealed government officials have been sending babies and toddlers to what are being called "tender age" shelters in the US.

The youngsters are some of the 2,300 children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border since the White House announced a zero-tolerance policy on migrant families in May.

"The AP has just broken some new news," Maddow started.

"Um, this has just come out from the Associated Press, this is incredible. Trump administration have been sending babies and other young children – oh, hold on," she said, her voice breaking.


Maddow attempted to get through the breaking news piece one more time before moving the show over to a guest. "To at least three – three tender age shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers… I think I'm going to have to hand this off. Sorry."

Maddow took to Twitter shortly after the segment aired to say sorry to her viewers. "Again, I apologise for losing it there for a moment," she wrote. "Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile."

She also tweeted out what she had been trying to say in her live read, writing out what was presented in the AP story. "Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the "tender age" shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis…" she wrote.

"Decades after the nations child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents." (more…)

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