WELCOME TO LEITH Film Review
If the Nazis blitzkrieged their way through Europe, invading country after country during World War II, Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s Welcome to Leith is an 86-minute documentary about contemporary neo-Nazis who insinuate and infiltrate their way into a tiny jurisdiction in North Dakota. They begin to do so when a man - who turns out to be a notorious white supremacist - starts buying up property at little Leith. In doing so they threaten to turn Leith into a “village of the damned” where the township’s jurisdiction would be under the control of the fascists next door.
Even though there’s only one African American living at Leith (and apparently no Jews), this pits the hardcore reactionaries against the diminutive population of ordinary townsfolk and their allies. Demonstrations, with outside “agitators” from the right and the left, erupt, along with court battles amidst anxieties about the gun-toting, hostile pro-Hitlerites with their swastika flags. The Heroic Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking these and other adherents of hate groups, is an important factor and makes the point that after 9/11, the U.S. government stopped keeping tabs on them.
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Shortly after Halloween the L.A. Times said Welcome to Leith “may be year’s scariest movie.” This is actually a very clever, well put, pithy point. Onscreen, the racists make their case by calling for a separate white nation from other ethnicities. However, historically white supremacists have generally claimed that Caucasians are genetically superior to other races, nationalities, etc. Given this documentary’s pathetic “exemplars” of white womanhood and manhood, Leith’s Aryan adult subjects are so hideous to behold and cretinous that they debunk their own arguments in favor of racial superiority.
And as for racial “purity” - in what may be the film’s best moment, the focal point of the film (who I am deliberately not naming in order to avoid fanning the flames of claims to fame and “celebrity” - which is part of what these losers so crave) appears on a TV talk show hosted by a Black woman. He has taken a challenge for an ancestral test, and it turns out that according to his DNA profile (or whutevah) that he is 14% sub-Sahara African in his ethnicity. Exposed as part Black, the Black TV hostess slyly attempts to fist bump her embarrassed “brother.”
However, as law enforcement cracks down on the Leith-al Aryans and their weapons, those on the Left should beware and ponder: If the system can come down hard on rightwing extremists, it can also do so to their counterparts on the Left. What if anarchists in the northwest similarly tried to setup a commune in this way to practice a form of anarchy, and they were surveilled and harassed by the FBI and so on? Leith’s white supremacists very shrewdly insist on their civil liberties - even if their uncivil behavior has the end goal of taking everybody else’s rights away.
If Hispanic rights advocates can try to pressure NBC to prevent Donald Trump the right to appear on SNL, then can police associations boycott and intimidate director Quentin Tarantino? These things can cut both ways and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander under this system. The correct strategy for how to confront rightwing hate groups without compromising the Left’s rights, too, is something to think about. In the meanwhile, Welcome to Leith delivers plenty of food for thought.
Welcome to Leith is currently playing in L.A. at the Laemmle Music Hall and is opening at theaters across the U.S. and Canada throughout the rest of the year.