Tracker Pixel for Entry

‘Welcome to Leith’ Q&A

Cinema | April 1st, 2015

Film documents a white supremacist’s attempt to take over a small North Dakota town

“Welcome to Leith” is a new documentary, which premiered at the Sundance and SXSW film festivals, that shows the story of white supremacist Craig Cobb moving to Leith, N.D. and the town’s subsequent attempts to removed him, in real time. Directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker received incredible access to the situation as it unfolded. Cobb’s most explosive moments were caught on film, including the events surrounding his arrest for terrorizing. While the events in Leith occurred without any violence, the situations were so tense that they could have easily ended differently.

The filmmakers are currently working on distribution for the film and hope to screen it in North Dakota this year. HPR saw the film at SXSW, where it received rave reviews, and caught up with Nichols for an interview.

HPR: How did you first hear of the story of Craig Cobb coming to Leith?

Michael Nichols: We first read about Craig Cobb and Leith in a NY Times article at the end of August 2013.

HPR: What made you decide to make a documentary about it?

MN: Cobb's idea was so strange and bold. Here's this guy who wants to literally take over a town, albeit democratically, but based on a set of racist ideas -- in the middle of nowhere. It was just fascinating to us and seemed like an amazing story with vast implications. Once we read about the town hall meeting with the NSM (National Socialist Movement) and the family of white supremacists (Kynan Dutton and Deborah Henderson) moving in, we knew we had to go to North Dakota.

HPR: You had a lot of access to not only the mayor, the sheriff and other community members involved, but also Cobb himself. Was he reluctant to participate?

MN: We did, we were very fortunate. Cobb was very open with us and agreed to participate quickly. We were open with him about wanting to tell the whole story, from every vantage point available to us, and quite frankly wouldn't have made the film without his participation. We have no interest in telling viewers what to think. Hopefully we captured a moment in time and people watching can draw their own conclusions.

HPR: Did you ever think that the story might end up more violent than it did? It appeared in some of the meetings and encounters to be a powder keg.

Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker / Photo by Chris Hennen

MN: Honestly, we had no idea. The ingredients for violence were certainly there. Guns, tension, isolation, panic -- the stage was set. Thankfully no one was physically hurt.

HPR: What do you think would've happened had people not stood up to Cobb as they did from the beginning? What if they just shrugged their hands and said it's a small town,no big deal, leave him alone?

MN: It's hard to speculate. The residents had a "doomsday" plan wherein they could dissolve the town of Leith and be absorbed into Grant County if Cobb got enough supporters to move in, so there'd no longer be a town government for him to take over. But that wasn't very appealing, because it'd mean they wouldn't really have a voice in their own governance, because of how small they were in relation to the size of the county. It's really incredible that they decided to stand up and fight back. If they hadn't, I think there was a real possibility Cobb would get the numbers he needed to take over the town, and then the "town" of Leith would either no longer exist or would be under white supremacist governance.

HPR: Do you think the story is over? Do you believe Cobb will stay quiet and not doing anything like this again?

MN: There are three lots in town that still belong to white supremacists -- Jeff Schoep, Alex Linder and Tom Metzger. So that's of some concern to Leith residents. But we personally don't think Cobb will try to establish a white enclave again. But will someone else be inspired by his actions and try to succeed somewhere else? In America, anything's possible.

HPR: What has been the reaction to the film from members of the community of Leith who have seen it?

MN: Very positive, which is a huge relief for us.

HPR: What message do you want people to most get out of the film?

MN: It's up to the viewer to take from the film what she/he will.

HPR: Will “Welcome to Leith” be shown in North Dakota?

MN: Absolutely. We're hoping to screen in Bismarck and Grant County in late spring/early summer.

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.edu Gerald Briggs, the Warren County Mississippi Fire/EMS chief, was at a festival in February 2020 when a local law enforcement officer asked him if he had heard about the explosion…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu Dwight Herr interviewed his father, Julius E. Herr of Wishek, North Dakota, in June 1979. Dwight provided a transcription and donated the “Life Story of Julius E. Herr” to the Germans…

Saturday, March 1611 a.m.Downtown FargoWear something green and celebrate spring during Fargo-Moorhead’s premier parade. Thousands of spectators line the streets, so arrive early to snag a prime spot. This community celebration…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When one googles “What traits are desirable in a new employee,” some of the first words that pop up “from sources around the web” include “communication,” “team player,”…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comPoliticians could learn a lot by watching dung beetles work for a livingThe 400,000 species of beetles is the largest order of insects discovered on Planet Earth, so far. Insect researchers believe…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

The Aquarium, 226 Broadway North upstairs, Downtown FargoFriday, December 8, 7:30-11pmDoors 7:30 pm // Music 8 pm21+ // $10 advance // $12 DOSOver two decades, Christmas songs have appeared throughout Owen Ashworth’s recorded…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the pursuit of knowledge has directed humankind to new horizons – the ocean depths, the infinite reach of space, and the hidden secrets of cells and microbes…or to Artificial Intelligence, which…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Faye Seidlerfayeseidler@gmail.com On the first day of the month I ask people to thank a journalist they know or someone who contributes to papers in some meaningful way. When I grew up, my best friend's father was a journalist…