Sunday, July 5, 2015

Welcome To Leith: US Exceptionalism Come Home To Roost?

If you've ever been subjected to the frustrating experience of dealing with unpleasant next door neighbors or businesses on your block trampling all over quality of life notions, you're already aware of how insurmountable such a challenge tends to be. Then imagine an entire town faced with far worse.

A rural North Dakota hamlet of merely three miles and a handful of families, Leith awoke one day to find itself the territorial victim of a horrifying invasion. And one rivaling any scary Hollywood horror movie, which is the subject of the ironically titled, gripping documentary,  Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s Welcome To Leith.

In fact, Leith  had somehow become the master plan of notorious neo-Nazi leader Craig Cobb to take over the town  - which would be a first for an established Nazi territory in this country - with the  assortment of racist, white supremacist followers who would soon join him. And not with any of the usual anticipated violent terrorist takeover tactics in mind, but rather a shrewd scheme to utilize existing legal statutes on the books to acquire property and residency, and then simply vote themselves into power in local elections.

Though not without a few borderline legal maneuvers of local intimidation, to hopefully drive the lifelong residents out of the area. And perhaps enough provocation in the event that the enraged villagers would refuse to depart, to hopefully decimate their numbers by inciting them to illegal acts against their new neighbors that might lead to their incarceration. There's also more than a little help afforded to these vicious right wing intruders, by the fact that surrounding land being torn up by the destructive fracking corporations, would provide lucrative employment opportunities for these unwanted new neighbors.

The apparently too hot to handle by movie theaters Welcome To Leith manages a complex journey filmed impartially with a probing of both sides of the socio-political divide, through the legal and emotional struggles at hand. And grasping the never-a-dull-moment tense situation with a skillful blend of enlightenment and entertainment, however troubling.

Not to mention intimating a prophetic alarm as to what might lie ahead for this nation anywhere at any moment, as the deteriorating economic crisis and accompanying resentments ensue. Though one vital issue not addressed in the documentary, is how a country absent of any officially inscribed moral standards pertaining to cruelty, along with US exceptionalism legally come home to roost under the dubious blanket of civil liberties, kicks in.

Welcome To Leith has been acquired by First Run Features, and will be broadcast on PBS Independent Lens in the Spring 2016.

Prairie Miller

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