- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - An award-winning documentary about a small North Dakota town’s struggle to block a white supremacist from establishing an Aryan enclave on their doorsteps will be shown in theaters in the state next month.

“Welcome to Leith,” by New York filmmakers Michael Nichols and Christopher Walker, chronicles the saga of Leith and its clash with Craig Cobb, who bought property in the town of 16 people in 2012 and encouraged other white supremacists to join him there.

Cobb’s plans derailed when he was accused of menacing and terrorizing residents with a gun. He was put on probation for four years and moved to Sherwood, about 200 miles away.

“I think the film has taken on sort of a new relevance,” Nichols said, citing the recent massacre of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina. “People are paying more attention to this sort of domestic extremism.”

Nichols and Walker raised about $65,000 through crowdfunding and chipped in personal money to complete the 86-minute film. It premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and has since been accepted at film festivals in Australia, England, France and Canada, Nichols said. It won a best documentary award at film festivals in London and Boston.

“It was definitely beyond our expectations,” Nichols said. “It was a pretty extraordinary festival run.”

In July, the film landed a distribution deal with First Run Features, an independent distributor based in New York.

The film will begin a seven-day run of evening showings at the Grand Theatres in Bismarck on Sept. 25. There will be a matinee showing at the Mott Playhouse Theatre on Sept. 26.

Showings also are scheduled at theaters in nearly a dozen cities across the country, including Minneapolis; Milwaukee; Salt Lake City; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and New York City.

The filmmakers and Leith officials, including Mayor Ryan Schock, will attend the initial showings in Bismarck and host a question-and-answer session. It is not clear if Cobb will be invited to take part via video, after a similar session at Sundance “got a little chaotic,” Nichols said.

“Some audience members asked hostile questions, then it sort of went downhill from there,” he said. “It didn’t feel to us like a really productive Q and A.”

For his part, Cobb said he is happy with the film and his portrayal in it.

“A lot of it’s me delivering fact. It’s kind of like Donald Trump,” he said.


Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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