We often like to think that the poisonous ideology of Nazism was defeated when the Second World War ended in 1945; however, we rarely like to admit the truth that such ideologies are still going strong in small isolated pockets.
One such isolated pocket, led by prominent Neo-Nazi and white supremacist Craig Cobb, found itself in Leith, North Dakota, a tiny town with a population, according to the most recent census, amounts to 16. Cobb, through gaining control in local elections, hoped to turn the town into a miniature Third Reich and turn it into a paradise for other Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
The documentary Welcome to Leith shows us the battle between Cobb, attempting to make his twisted dream a reality, and the desperate efforts of the townsfolk to prevent such a poisonous individual from taking control of their peaceful community.
The presentation of this film’s subjects is carefully done, with an even-handed approach to all parties presented.
The townsfolk of Leith seem like your standard small town community, polite, helpful and always looking out for each other. It’s a caring community in which everyone knows everyone and the town is largely passed over and left alone by the world.
However, looking at the town it seems like it has also been abandoned by the world, with most businesses closed down, besides a lone drinking establishment. The place is littered with battered and broken houses; the sign at the town’s entrance is simply a crudely constructed wooden sign with “Welcome to Leith” painted onto it, as one interviewee in the film states “it looks like a B-roll for The Walking Dead”.
Which begs the question the film tries to answer, why would such a quiet, unknown town, be the object of desire for a band of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists?
The simple answer it seems is that they want Leith to be the beginning of a much more terrifying process, in which they begin by taking over small communities, before moving on to take over much larger ones.
Craig Cobb and his handful of followers, one of whom resembles and acts like a cross between Henrich Himmler and Napoleon Dynamite, provide a terrifying window into the mindset of the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist movement.
People utterly committed to their hatred of those unlike themselves, the racist language flowing freely, attempting to justify their prejudices as being a warped form of self-preservation of the white race, which they repeatedly allege is in danger of being wiped out.
However, the film does not take a condemnatory viewpoint of Cobb and his followers. Instead by allowing them to speak openly about their views, it allows the viewers a chance to try and understand why they hold such twisted views. We see that it largely comes from frustration and loneliness; these men feel that society doesn’t understand their fears and worries about things, thus they congregate together, via online forums and white supremacist rallies where they can hear and spout the usual racism and conspiracy theories and be greeted with approval and friendship.
The film also examines the apparent overlooking of white supremacist groups by the U.S. government, some of which often resort to violence, which the film shows via a terrifying montage of attacks on Holocaust museums, Sikh temples and various other places across the United States.
Welcome to Leith is a fascinating and terrifying look at Nazism and White supremacy in modern day America, represented as a clash of communities, between the peaceful, kind-hearted and friendly people of Leith, and the hateful, vile racism of Craig Cobb and his small band of Neo-Nazis.
The even-handed approach the film takes allows us to understand both sides of the dispute, looking at the various fears, prejudices and actions taken by both sides to further their agendas.
An excellent documentary that leaves you shocked, terrified, and often enraged, but also one that certainly leaves you thinking about its subject matter long after it ends. Check it out.
Welcome to Leith is currently available on Netflix.
[rating=4] | Graeme Robertson
Documentary | USA, 2015 | 15 | Metrodome Distribution |Available Now Netflix | Dir.Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker