Director | Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker
Producer | Joey Carey, Jenner Furst, Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker, Joshua Woltermann
Writer | Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker
Cast | n/a – documentary feature.
Run Time | 86 mins
Certificate | 15
Plot | Welcome to Leith is a documentary chronicling the attempted takeover of Leith, North Dakota by white supremacists.
Review | Should freedom of speech be protected at all costs? That is an underlying theme in Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s disturbing, compelling documentary.
Leith, North Dakota is a very small town, with only twenty odd inhabitants. It has a single business, a sort of cafe bar hybrid, and the the workers tend to be employed on nearby farms or oil plants. When one of their own made the national news, it wasn’t because they were slowly buying up all the plots of land in town, it was because this gentleman happened to be nationally known white supremacist Craig Cobb.
Filmed within an eight month period, three weeks at a time, Nichols and Walker manage to shoot all the major events of the situation as it pans out. To their credit, Welcome to Leith is presented in an unbiased a way as possible. There is no voice over, and no exposition that isn’t coming directly from those involved – on both sides. In an unprecedented move, they not only gave approximately half of the running time to interviewing Cobb and his associates directly, but managed to get mobile phone and other footage shot by them incorporated into the final cut.
This is a carefully crafted film. By giving Cobb and his associates an equal say, Nichols and Walker manage to avoid sensationalising an already shocking true story. In a way, this helps Welcome to Leith become all the more powerful. While no sane person could side with the disturbing rhetoric of hate on offer, they still allow the audience to come to this conclusion naturally – this is not a Michael Moore documentary where the audience is verbally bludgeoned into following one particular person’s opinion. This is a mature film, and it becomes all the more valid for being this way.
The above is combined with an adroitly crafted score to give Welcome to Leith the feel of a Hollywood drama. Well, more like a gritty Indie drama, but the point remains. It is compelling viewing and, even if the final quarter or so peters out a little, this should still become essential viewing for both aspiring documenteers and those studying freedom of speech.
The Verdict | As disturbing as it is compelling, this is an essential look at freedom of speech.