If you watched Netflix’s documentary Wild Wild Country back in 2018, do we have news for you. Netflix recently announced that Searching For Sheela, a documentary about the later years of Ma Anand Sheela, is coming soon to the platform. An exact release date has not yet been announced, so in the meantime, here’s a quick refresher about Sheela’s controversial, stranger-than-fiction life.
Sheela is one of the main figures in Wild Wild Country, which traces the controversial Oregon community led by Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in the 1980s. In the ’80s, she was Rajneesh’s most trusted advisor and vocal supporter, while also being the subject of numerous accusations. The documentary depicts her battle with residents of the nearby town of Antelope, who objected to Rajneesh’s community, called Rajneeshpuram. Sheela fought back politically, moving community members (“sannyasins”) into Antelope proper to take control of the town government through municipal elections. Other tactics depicted include importing busloads of homeless people into Rajneeshpuram to raise the community’s number of voters, causing a mysterious salmonella outbreak, wiretapping community members, and setting fire to a county office.
In real life, Sheela couldn’t escape the law for long. As a result of her involvement with the 1984 salmonella outbreak, she was prosecuted for attempted murder and assault in what was characterized as a bioterror attack. She pled guilty to attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, wiretapping, and immigration fraud and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, although she only served a little over three before being released on parole. Rajneeshpuram denounced her too, and she moved to Switzerland after leaving prison, buying two nursing homes there — although her criminal past continued to follow her.
In Searching For Sheela, according to its official Netflix page, “Journalists and fans await Ma Anand Sheela as the infamous former Rajneesh commune’s spokesperson returns to India after decades for an interview tour.” Further details about the hour-long documentary will be released in the coming weeks — it’s just the latest in Netflix’s long line of “OMG!”-worthy documentaries that cover some of the most unusual and headline-grabbing moments of history.
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