HotDocs ’15 – Day 7: Welcome to Leith/The Bolivian Case

"Welcome" to Leith.
“Welcome” to Leith.

Welcome to Leith (USA, 2015): In a foreboding corner of North Dakota you’ll find the town on Leith. The small, tight-knit community had no idea what was coming when a cantankerous, lonely man moved in. It wasn’t just a regular Joe trying to get away from it all, but militant white supremacist Craig Cobb, who soon enough started to buy land for his fellow neo-Nazis.

The excellent Welcome to Leith chronicles the legal battle that ensued between Leith inhabitants -who grew tired of Cobb’s antics very quickly- and the xenophobe himself, backed up by the NSM. Provocation was the name of the game for Cobb (who claimed his revolting hate speech was protected by the First Amendment), but miscalculated the endurance and commonality demonstrated by the townsfolk.

Many of the documentaries featured in HotDocs are bound to provoke a reaction from the audience, but Welcome to Leith was the first one that actually upset me. The tactics of Cobb and his fellow white supremacists are troubling, but since they have enough awareness to remain within the law, they get can get away with a lot (harassment, distress), more so in a place as isolated as Leith.

The film is a must watch. The storytelling is strong and the imagery will give you pause. Here is hoping for wide distribution. Four and a half prairie dogs.

The Bolivian Case (Bolivia/Australia, 2015): The story The Bolivian Case tries to cover is a fascinating one. Three Norwegian girls vacationing in the South American nation are caught trying to smuggle cocaine out of Bolivia. One escapes with the assistance of the Scandinavian consulate, the other two land in jail… until one of them becomes a celebrity of sorts in Norway and leaves the country with the assistance of a magazine while on bail (!). Furthermore, other members of the smuggling ring are on trial in the European country.

This is a story that oozes sex, race and media issues. Unfortunately, director Violeta Ayala chooses to address them directly instead of letting these wide and complex matters emerge organically from the narrative. Furthermore, The Bolivian Case has some structural issues in which the first half has all the strength and the second (focused on the dull judicial process in Norway) limps to the finish line. The material is there. The scenes inside the Cochabamba jail are fascinating: The place operates as a citadel, to the point the two incarcerated girls become pregnant during their stint in prison. Re-editing would benefit the film greatly. One and a half prairie dog.

A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS The coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for our community. We’re all hurting. It’s no different at Prairie Dog, where COVID-19 has wiped out advertisements for events, businesses and restaurants as Regina and Saskatchewan hunker down in quarantine. As an ad-supported newspaper already struggling in a destabilized media landscape, this is devastating. We’re hoping you, our loyal readers, can help fill in the gap so Prairie Dog can not only continue to exist but even expand our coverage — both in print and online. Please consider donating, either one-time or, even better, on a monthly basis.

We believe Prairie Dog‘s unique voice is needed, now more than ever. For 27 years, this newspaper has been a critical part of Regina’s social, cultural and democratic infrastructure. Don’t let us fade away. There’s only one Prairie Dog. If it’s destroyed, it’s never coming back.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

2 thoughts on “HotDocs ’15 – Day 7: Welcome to Leith/The Bolivian Case”

  1. Please define “citadel” for me, because I don’t get the connotation re: sexual activity.

  2. Hey Barb. Sorry, just saw this. It’s the weirdest jail. There is a common patio for male and female inmates that looks like a food court/farmers’ market, an opportunity to sneak around.

Comments are closed.