Friday, 12 February 2016

REVIEW - WELCOME TO LEITH (MICHAEL BEACH NICHOLS AND CHRISTOPHER K. WALKER)


America almost eats itself alive in Welcome to Leith - America as a microcosm, its vast swathes of unoccupied land whose purpose and character are somehow dictated, and occupied, by the influence and control of so few. Europe destroyed America, an act of destruction that is, as yet, unfinished; it's in the power lines bisecting once-beautiful landscapes, and it's in the bigotry whose effect leaves even larger scars. Evil turns up in Leith, North Dakota, that much is clear; less clear is what was there before, and what was left there after. Welcome to Leith unwittingly makes you look closer, to uncover something even more frightening - this isn't a battle between good and bad, it's a battle between bad and worse. So this isn't the most thorough, nor incisive documentary, but it is enlightening, and wholly riveting. Its barren landscapes and brutish architecture are the ideal stage for a horror show, and when one shows up, the film willingly succumbs to its potential to invoke terror upon its audience. Directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker eventually relent, permitting a welcome amount of measured objectivity to permeate their portrait of Craig Cobb, the white supremacist who invades this minuscule city and draws out the very worst in its residents with his very best. It's an ugly portrait, as it should be, but not an ignorant one, though once again Welcome to Leith suffers from a slight lack of depth - as with the other inhabitants of Leith, much of what we glean about Cobb is due to the viewer's own investigations and assumptions, not the filmmakers'. By no means is it their duty to spell everything out for us, but an acknowledgement that they're at least capable of it wouldn't have gone unappreciated. What I gleaned was a dumbfounding degree of irony, in the neo-Nazis' embrace of Northern European culture they couldn't be less aligned to, and in the Leith townspeople's warped interpretation of tolerance. Welcome to Leith is, in the end, only as deep a film as you make of it.