IN THEATERS (SF) – “Welcome to Leith”

15311-3-1100Welcome to Leith (2015; Dir.: Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker)

GRADE: B+

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens tomorrow at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

In a year of solid doubles for domestic documentaries, here’s another extra-base hit to put on your watchlist (eat it, Peter Travers!). Welcome to Leith looks at the panic that overtook the citizens of a microscopic North Dakota farming community when white supremacists sought to legally take over their town. A barren city of a few dozen citizens decimated by recessions and ignored by the oil boom, Leith is the sort of nowhere town where teenagers sit on the city council; the current Mayor got his council seat when he was sixteen years old, and only gained his current position when the previous two officeholders died of old age. Enter well-traveled hatemonger Charles Cobb with a loose conglomeration of followers and an evil plan: buy up plots of land and outnumber the citizenry with sympathizers, turning Leith into a white supremacist-run city. The town sits in a sparsely populated county where a handful of police officers patrol 1600 square miles of land, so the authorities are helpless to protect the people of Leith, who begin stockpiling weapons and installing surveillance cameras in response. Welcome to Leith highlights the often-ignored issues of domestic terrorism, crumbling infrastructures and heartland hate groups, but it’s also a chilling look at the post-9/11 readiness of Americans to bend civil liberties and sacrifice their own freedoms in order to neutralize a terrorist threat. Tightly wound and terse throughout, Welcome to Leith ends on a note of disturbingly unresolved tension – the terror is real, even if it’s only in your head.