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'Welcome to Leith' is a feature documentary chronicling the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. Filmed in the days leading up to Cobb's arrest for terrorizing the townspeople on an armed patrol and his subsequent release from jail six months later, the film is an eerie document of American DIY ideals.
Fascinating film about Democracy and White Supremacy in Small Town America
Welcome to Leith was well-received at its showing at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film documents the peculiar events that occurred in 2013-2014 when a nationally-known white supremacist Craig Cobb moves to tiny Leith, North Dakota (population: 24) with a plan to buy up land and take over city government and make it into some sort of center of white supremacy. Once alerted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) the ordinary town folks mobilize to fight back and save their town from Cobb's nefarious plan.
The odd part of the story is that Cobb's plan seems to be legal. (When he and his partner are finally arrested they almost seem to have been provoked.) There is nothing illegal about buying land and moving into a town. And the first amendment allows him to express his beliefs and fly his Nazi flags no matter how evil and offensive those beliefs may be. The town residents actually seemed to be making excuses to get rid of him such as citing him for not having running water and a sewage system on his property.
Fundamentally, the film asks the question is democracy about the community making decisions by the will of the majority or is there a basic set of minimum beliefs about human equality that are necessary prerequisites to participate in democratic society? The majority of the town seemed to decide – really quite reasonably - that Cobb's noxious beliefs were so anti-egalitarian that they didn't want him and his cronies to live in their town. They are in some sense intolerant of his intolerant beliefs, but one can hardly blame them.
Welcome to Leith is beautifully filmed and the filmmakers maintain an impressive level of objectivity about their offensive subject. They let his evil beliefs discredit themselves rather than trying to paint Cobb as anything more than the pathetic nasty creature that he is. The townspeople come off as genuine and human. Perhaps it is a positive sign that this sort of racism is unacceptable even in one of the smallest most isolated corners of the United States. I hope that Welcome to Leith gets widely distributed so that many more people can enjoy this powerful film.
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