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Welcome to Leith (4 stars)

Gripping documentary charting a white supremacist’s attempted takeover of a US town

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Welcome to Leith

Leith is a virtual ghost town in North Dakota. It covers three square miles, boasts 24 residents and one business. It frequently looks like something from an episode of The Walking Dead but the area is still prized for its natural beauty and isolation. All that changed with the arrival of Craig Cobb, an unkempt, slightly mysterious older man who bought a property in the town. And then another one.

Cobb is a notorious racist and his intention was to establish a white supremacist community where Nazi flags would proudly stand on front lawns and hatred would have a place to call home. Welcome to Leith documents how the town tried to fight back. It retains an admirable objectivity as it provides a month-by-month account of events and shows the way Cobb was able to hide behind the legal protections of civil liberties and freedom of speech. As long as he stayed within the letter of the law, he could not be moved.

Welcome to Leith, from writer-directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K Walker, has the bone-dry feel of a James Ellroy thriller and is both chilling and blood-boiling as it immerses you in an impossible situation. How do you thwart a man who spreads hostility and intimidation when technically he has done nothing wrong?

There is a real sense of dread running through the film as you keep expecting everything to end in violence or death. We are also given a sense of the bigger picture in a nation where resources are so focused on fighting an international terrorist threat that domestic hate crimes and episodes of anti-Semitism are on the rise. You are constantly reminded of the old saying: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ An unshowy but utterly compelling documentary.

Limited release from Fri 12 Feb.

Welcome to Leith

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 85 min
  • Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker
  • UK release: 12 February 2016

Documentary about the attempt by neo-Nazi Craig Cobb to turn the little town of Leith, North Dakota into a white supremacist settlement, and how the town fought back. But how do you fight a man who spreads nothing but hostility and intimidation, but who technically does nothing wrong? Unshowy, chilling and utterly…

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