Leith: weaponized Aryans on film in North Dakota

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 in 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 in Leith (and apparently no Jews), this pits the hardcore reactionaries against the diminutive population of ordinary townsfolk and their allies. Demonstrations erupt, with outside “agitators” from the right and the left, 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 hate groups, is an important factor and makes the point that after 9/11, the U.S. government stopped keeping tabs on them.

Shortly after Halloween the Los Angeles Times said Welcome to Leith “may be this 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 individual in the film 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 that he is 14% sub-Saharan African in his ethnicity. Exposed as part Black, the Black TV hostess slyly attempts to fist bump her embarrassed “brother.”

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. In the meanwhile, Welcome to Leith delivers plenty of food for thought.

Welcome to Leith is opening at theaters across the U.S. and Canada throughout the rest of the year.

The trailer for the film can be viewed here.

Welcome to Leith

Written and directed by: Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker

Photo: Kynan Dutton, Craig Cobb and Deb Henderson patrol their neighborhood in Leith, N.D. as seen in Welcome to Leith, a feature documentary by Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker. Photo by Gregory Bruce.



Ed Rampell
Ed Rampell

Film historian and critic Ed Rampell was named after CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow because of his TV exposes of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Rampell majored in cinema at New York's Hunter College. After graduating, he lived in Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii, and Micronesia, where he reported on the nuclear-free and independent Pacific movement for "20/20," Reuters, AP, Radio Australia, Newsweek, etc. He went on to co-write "The Finger" column for New Times L.A. and has written for many other publications, including Variety, Mother Jones, The Nation, Islands, L.A. Times, L.A. Daily News, Written By, The Progressive, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and AlterNet.

Rampell appears in the 2005 Australian documentary "Hula Girls, Imagining Paradise." He co-authored two books on Pacific Island politics, as well as two film histories: "Made In Paradise, Hollywood's Films of Hawaii and the South Seas" and "Pearl Harbor in the Movies." Rampell is the author of "Progressive Hollywood, A People's Film History of the United States." He is a co-founder of the James Agee Cinema Circle and one of L.A.'s most prolific film/theatre/opera reviewers.