SXSW MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Welcome To Leith’ Finds White Supremacy In North Dakota


Film: Welcome To Leith
Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker

Craig Cobb is part of a dying breed. In 2012 he made headlines after moving to a town with a population of 24 (including children) in rural North Dakota for the sole purpose of building a community of people sharing his white nationalist ideology and gaining the electoral majority. He bought twelve plots of land, all in various states of decay, and soon ignited a media frenzy that brought the community of Leith into the national spotlight.

Welcome To Leith tells of Craig Cobb’s arrival in Leith, the truth behind his attempts to build a community for like-minded white supremacists, and the media frenzy that soon followed with unparalleled access and depth. You hear both sides of the story, from Cobb and his followers, as well the people of Leith and the surrounding area, all juxtaposed against the often sensationalized national headlines many of you reading this no doubt saw shared on your Facebook wall. It’s not a statement on racism, but rather a presentation of facts surrounding a story that captivated people across the country. This makes for a far more compelling narrative overall, though sometimes the transition between both sides is not all that smooth.

By inserting themselves into the drama as it unfolded in real time, filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker are able to document the events in Leith in a way most storytellers are never able. They blend news footage with their own work, as well as the cell phone images, photos, and security camera footage provided by the residents of Leith. Even Cobb and his followers open their doors, which in turn provides a unique look into the world of modern racism I don’t recall seeing presented in any other film within the last ten years.

When Cobb’s story takes the filmmakers out of Leith, it’s their continued connection and dedication to the people in the community that makes the film shine. I don’t think many will ever find themselves cheering for Cobb and his followers, but you will root for the people of Leith who never asked for any of the events that unfold to fall upon them. They’re just hard working Americans trying to make the best with what they have, and if that means living in a tiny town with only one business that is made up largely, if not entirely of dirt roads then that is the life they will lead.

Nichols and Walker first learned of Craig Cobb and his plans to transform the community of Leith in a 2013 New York Times article. Just two months later they were aboard the first of three separate three-week trips they would make to North Dakota. They used that time to not only speak with the people involved in the story, but also to capture a beautiful, albeit somewhat haunting portrait of modern middle America. Leith would have never made headlines without Cobb’s arrival, and that may be the saddest part of this whole story. A once thriving American town has now been reduced to series of abandoned lots separated only by the few who refuse to leave. Cobb may be gone, but there is still very little hope for the community of Leith.


Review written by James Shotwell

Welcome to Leith – Teaser from NO WEATHER on Vimeo.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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