Screening Room: ‘Welcome to Leith’

'Welcome to Leith': The day the Nazis came to town. (First Run Features)
‘Welcome to Leith’: The day the Nazis came to town. (First Run Features)

In 2012, a white supremacist named Craig Cobb decided to buy up land in the small town of Leith, North Dakota. His plan was to create his own Aryan enclave. However, the neo-Nazis failed to heed Cobb’s call and ultimately he went to jail for terrorizing his neighbors. However, as this stunning new documentary shows, that’s not the whole story.

Welcome to Leith is playing now in limited release and will be expanding around the country throughout the fall. My review is at PopMatters:

Early in Welcome to Leith, Ryan Lenz, a researcher on hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes his first visit to the Leith, North Dakota (pop: 24): “It was like B-roll for the Walking Dead.” That’s a description the townspeople probably wouldn’t care for, understandably. But one glance at the straggly trees, dirt roads, and abandoned houses set against the broad and intimidating expanse of the sweeping northern plains, and the average viewer might be tempted to agree…

Here’s the trailer:

On the Media: ‘The Jinx’ and Confessions

thejinx-posterCuriously enough, there is actually a precedent for the news that broke over the weekend with a blockbuster HBO documentary playing an outsized role in an ongoing media sensation of a criminal case.

Decades before Andrew Jarecki’s The Jinx played a (as yet not fully clear) role in the arrest of the perennial murder suspect and troubled millionaire Robert Durst, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s true-crime classic Paradise Lost (about the West Memphis Three) bumped up against the realities of an ongoing criminal investigation. While filming the proceedings, Berlinger was given a bloody knife that was similar to the murder weapon:

Berlinger told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on Monday that he immediately went to HBO, and together they decided to turn the knife over to investigators, even though it put their film at risk.

He said he would like to think that he would reach the same conclusion today, but noted the increased pressure to make films as entertaining as possible.

It’s not entirely clear what responsibilities the filmmakers of The Jinx had when confronted with potential evidence of Durst’s culpability some time ago. But the fact that Durst wasn’t arrested until just the day before the miniseries’ last episode on Sunday is being seen by some as a media-manipulated event.

I reviewed the first couple episodes of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst for PopMatters here.

 

New in Theaters: ‘West of Memphis’

westofmemphis-posterOn Christmas Day, amidst all the other award-hopeful films, one documentary that’s small in budget but massive in scope opens in limited release; it’s well worth seeking out:

Without Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s trilogy of Paradise Lost documentaries, most of the world would never have heard of the West Memphis Three. But when all is said and done, Amy Berg’s impactful film might ultimately stand the test of time as the true document of the case and its hair-raising implications for justice in America…

My full review is at Film Journal International.

The trailer is here: