Hot Docs 2015: Welcome To Leith Review

Special Presentations

Pitched somewhere between a real world nightmare and sick black comedy, Welcome To Leith serves up a story so unlikely that it could only be real. The film takes place in Leith, a tiny Southern US town with only 24 citizens who enjoy their peace and isolation. Unfortunately, that all changes when White Supremacist leader Craig Cobb comes to town. As if his mere presence weren’t disturbing enough for the citizens, Cobbs then starts buying up land around the community and announces that he hopes to turn Leith into a safe haven for his fellow racist wackos. That turns the tale into a nightmare for the longtime Leith residents who desperately want to be rid of Cobb and his slowly building swarm of supremacists, but they have no power to prevent them from moving into their community.

Co-directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker somehow managed to talk their way into telling the story in equal balance from both sides. Occasionally they film with cell phones to minimize intrusiveness and end up with a fully rounded document of the insane series of events in Leith. It’s impossible not to be infuriated by Cobb’s outlook and partners, yet their actions and behavior are so pathetic that dark humor seeps in around the edges for anyone watching who can’t take these morons seriously. The citizens of Leith are justifiably infuriated and frightened, so tension mounts quickly and palpably. Town hall meetings turn into a circus and everyone seems to start carrying guns around wherever they go.

The film raises interesting questions about the citizen rights of aggressive racists who seem to deserve none and it all spirals towards a conclusion that’s incredibly tricky to sort through. Nichols and Walker’s film is a fascinating piece of work and it’s amazing that it even exists.

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Screens: 

Saturday, April 25, 2:00pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sunday, April 26, 1:00pm @ Hart House Theatre
Thursday, April 30, 1:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

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