Just so you’re prepared, there are spoilers ahead…
We started watching Wild Wild Country, Netflix’s documentary series about controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. When we were driving home from San Jose to Los Angeles after the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Conference last Summer, we were immediately hooked on the insanely epic tale of transcendental hippy cult versus wholesome hometown folks. It vaguely reminded me of my parents referring to the events that took place and mentioning something about “The Next Jonestown” before I really knew what that meant. In college I had a humanities professor who showed us “Living the Good Life”, the film that showcased radical economists Scott and Helen Nearing, and until then I’d never known sustainable living and vegetarianism were such controversial topics to so many people. He also was a big fan of the commune the Rajneeshpuram followers had built and referred to it as a nearly utopian experiment. When watching “Murder Mountain” and seeing what the early days of the Humboldt growing communities were like in the 1970s, it was impossible not to notice the similarities between what the two groups had built.
Batsh*t Valley is a lovingly crafted part parody/part homage that seems just as believable and no less crazy than the source material it lampoons and is a great example of why “the truth in comedy” is always so effective. You really don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy it, although it probably adds an extra layer of humor. Batsh*t Valley can be pretty fully experienced all on it’s own as a 2 part comedic mockumentary featuring Owen Wilson (Zoolander) as the enigmatic pot dealer turned cult leader, and Necar Zadegan as his cunning second in command with the legendary Michael Keaton (Batman, Beetlejuice) as the FBI agent who specializes in cult activity. It’s been great to see so much of Michael Keaton in the last few years, he plays the role both in the present day and in black and white archived surveillance footage. He’s always a welcome presence onscreen when you’re viewing something while stoned and Owen Wilson’s voice is the perfect pitch and tone to hear when you’re heavily on the cannabis. This 2 part episode was written by Seth Meyers, one of the series creators best known for hosting “Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers”.
Documentary Now! Has had some amazingly good episodes in the past based on classic documentaries like “Grey Gardens” (became Sandy Passage) and “Nanook of the North” (became Kunuk Uncovered). The major difference being that earlier eps starred Bill Hader (Pineapple Express) and Fred Armisen (Portlandia) in the majority of the roles, and as classic as the older docs being parodied may have been they were still barely mainstream and were mostly famous among documentary aficionados and people who paid attention during that portion of the Academy Awards. Batsh*t Valley is an IFC comedy inspired by a Netflix documentary that’s less than a year old and was incredibly popular, that also features bonafide movie star style box office draw actors like Wilson and Keaton making it accessible to a much wider audience despite how crazy it is. Like most things, it’s best watched and even funnier while stoned. I’d roll a couple joints and light one at the beginning of each episode. This is something you’ll want to see more than once, and you’ll laugh whenever they say orgies.
Watch it here at ifc.com/shows/documentary-now.
Partick Ian Moore