Welcome to Leith Review

Genre: Docudrama/Thriller
Year Released: 2015
Distributor: First Run Features
Origin: USA
Running Time: 86 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-MA
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Hate Crimes In the Heartland
Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:
-Leith, North Dakota has 34 people according to a 2016 estimate of their population. At the time Welcome to Leith was filmed, there were 24 people living there. That’s one heck of a population boom despite the events in this film.

-Welcome to Leith was shown on Independent Lens by PBS.

-Welcome to Leith was funded through Kickstarter with a $60,000 goal, but they raised $64, 751.

-Craig Cobb, the White Supremacist featured in this film attempted to make more communities in Nebraska after the events of this film in 2015, but the courts blocked those attempts.

Much like my review of Ruby Ridge months ago, I once again return to the very uncomfortable subject of White Supremacy. People (especially here in America) should pay attention to this since mainstream media has been lax at best when it comes to reporting those issues. Whether it’s Charlottesville, the Portland stabbing, The Jewish Center shooting in Kansas City, KS, or the Alt-Right terrorist who shot up a school in Aztec, NM, no one is safe from these attacks. These and many other unnamed examples could also classify as “White-On-White” crime which is largely unchecked by several known news sources, yet all they can focus on is whatever gang violence is going on in Chicago in a not-so-subtle attempt to use dog whistle racism going on. Regardless of one’s complexion, everyone’s a potential target from these terrorists who aren’t profiled as much as their counterparts in ISIS or Al-Qaeda for example. Here’s a case of hateful people who want to start a community in a tiny town in North Dakota.

Welcome to Leith takes place in the aforementioned North Dakota town that is so small that you could fit the entire population in a classroom. Leith, ND is a rural town that’s far away from the other major cities of Bismarck, Fargo, or Minot. People are busy living their lives in the great plains, but they noticed someone peculiar who moved in around 2012. That’s noted White Supremacist convict Craig Cobb. His goal is to make a White utopia and invite all of his Ultra Right-Wing cohorts from around America to come and live there. They build a compound and decorate it with Nazi regalia, confederate flags, and insignia from several White Supremacy groups around. Despite the town only having one minority living there (one Black man, by the way), the other Caucasians in the town were threatened and they feared for their life as these new neighbors spout hate, propaganda, and walk around willy-nilly with loaded guns in the open.

The production was top-notch and I liked the various forms of footage the filmmakers edited together. The camera work was splendid as it captures the rural small town feel of Leith. The smallest town I’ve lived in was in the four-digit range and they really knew how to make this tiny town cause any other rural town to look like New York City by comparison. The beauty of the backgrounds and the ugliness of some of the dilapidated buildings provided a stark contrast. There are even points where iPhone footage was used to get information and to drive a point about the whole issue (I’ll talk about one piece of smartphone footage later). I also enjoyed how they got both sides of the story with the locals in Leith and their White Supremacist neighbors which provided a balanced perspective. This documentary wouldn’t be half as effective if it was just the locals or cops despite my severe qualms against that racist worldview. The visuals and presentation really hit that one out of the park.

There were several people who were featured in Welcome to Leith. There’s the mayor Ryan Shock who lived there his entire life and got the mayoral job after the last two politicians died. He wants Leith to be a safe place and was concerned once he heard about that Aryan paradise being made in his town. There’s Lee and Heather Cook who moved from the Pacific Northwest over to Leith. They joke about making the population grow exponentially when they came there. However, there’s hurt in their hearts after their daughter was murdered at age seventeen back when they were in The Evergreen State. Bobby Harper is the only Black man, let alone the only minority living in Leith with his Caucasian wife. He stands his ground in wanting to stay in his home, but he also has a sense of humor which comes out in the funniest scene in an otherwise creepy and somber docudrama. Craig Cobb is the new neighbor that people fear. He has an independent media channel that is so far right, they he could make Breitbart look like The Humanist Report. He constantly films everything with his laptop while hurling racial and Anti-Semitic slurs around. His partner-in-crime is Kynan Dutton who’s a Hitler-mustache having veteran that is involved in an Aryan gang. He even cusses out a cop, but because he looks a certain way, it’s not surprising (to me, at least) that he wasn’t in jail right away or beaten. Each person gets a decent amount of time being shown on there and so many of these stories are quite frightening. The key funny part that was surprisingly appropriate was the TV clip of Craig Cobb having a DNA test which revealed that he was fourteen percent Sub-Saharan African which he denies. Bobby Harper sees it and says “How can you join a hate group if you don’t know your DNA?” before laughing. Shoot, I laughed at the painfully obvious irony about that situation and it was a good stress reliever that was well-placed to break up the creepiness of Welcome to Leith. When Cobb rubs in Cook’s face about his murdered daughter, I wouldn’t have blamed Cook if he punched him in the face even though he was so close to doing that. There was so much tension in this movie.

Welcome to Leith was a powerful doc, but I didn’t like everything in it. I wished that they would’ve had more clips with the Southern Poverty Law Center. They made some great points with how White Power groups don’t get profiled by the government nearly as much as Islamic or Black groups. I wished they would’ve brought up more statistics to drive the point of how dangerous these groups are. The mayor Ryan Shock was featured more in the beginning, but I think he should’ve been featured more with his thoughts on the whole situation. I won’t spoil the ending of Welcome to Leith, but I guarantee it will tick off so many people with what went down. There were so many more anecdotes one could make about the hypocrisy going on with these people committing crimes or even contrasting it with other cases.

There was one brief clip that was filmed on a cell phone that ticked me off so much that I just have to talk about it. There are recurring scenes of Cobb and Dutton walking around with loaded rifles. There’s a 911 call as an audio track while the footage is going on from a witness looking at them. Once the police got there, they ask why they have guns. Both White Supremacists mention that they’re carrying loaded guns within close proximity to the cops. What happens is the cops don’t have their hands on their holsters and they just walk away. Cobb and Dutton had the temerity to wield guns around in front of cops and nothing happens to them at that time? I hate to bring up race in this situation, but this needs to be said. If those two were literally any non-Caucasian group holding guns and saying hateful things, they would be dead or in jail (more likely the former). Even the most hardcore gangsters wouldn’t pull that stuff in front of twelve’s presence. Minorities have been gunned down for less. That scene alone will only add ammunition (no pun intended) for POCs to make sardonic jokes about the Second Amendment being “a Whites-only law” with how lenient the police were in that situation. Don’t believe me? Just ask people like Tamir Rice or Philando Castille to see what it’s like. Oh, wait. They’re dead. Cobb, who already had a rap sheet prior to moving to Leith was treated better than people with no criminal records. That was just disgusting on so many levels.

Welcome to Leith is an uncomfortable watch, but it was a necessary one. This docudrama really begs the question on when First Amendment rights going to far when there are threats involved. This also reveals how people can be threatened regardless of their complexion. It unintentionally shows the double standards of the criminal justice system with how certain criminals are treated with kid gloves while innocent people get arrested or executed for minor or no offenses. I liked how both sides got to speak about how they felt. Truth be told, I wanted to hear the Supremacists’ words as their logic was hateful, delusional, and beyond hypocritical as they played the victim. Bonus points for them talking about other hate crimes in quick montages like the aforementioned Jewish Community Center shooting by a Neanderthugging criminal (props to The Advise Show for that term). However, some people should’ve been focused on more often and some subtext was mixed. Welcome to Leith will enrage you and make you feel awkward, but it’s cold hard truth that America needs to accept.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like edgy documentaries
Subtract 2-4 points if the concept of White Supremacy makes you uncomfortable

-Great production values
-Multiple sides represented in a believable way
-Unintentional brilliance in the narrative of the justice system and the First Amendment

-Lack of spotlighting some people
-The ending will aggravate you
-More statistics of White Supremacy groups would’ve been nice

Final Score: 9/10 points

Content Warning:Welcome to Leith is for older audiences only. The language is very strong and there are epithets of racial slurs and Anti-Semitic words thrown around frequently. There’s strong Nazi/KKK/White Supremacy imagery around the compound and many of the members do the Heil Hitler salute. Younger audiences would not get the concepts of White Supremacy logic including talk of genocide against minorities. Seriously, a bunch of these people want to do more than just debate on whether Armenians are considered White or finding White Supremacy philosophy compliant in kid’s animated movies on their online forums, for example (Yes, that’s actually a thing). There’s even footage of various murders in America that have been tied to White Supremacy movements going on.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Welcome to Leith is property of First Run Features. The movie poster is from IMDb and property of First Run Features.

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