Welcome to Leith sheds light on the tensions that arose when Craig Cobb, one of the leaders of a white supremacists group, moved into a small town in North Dakota called Leith, and tried to take over it as a base for his racist group. Forfunately, the small town's people weren't small minded at all because they did everything they could in their legal abilities to get Craig Cobb out of Leith. Co-director Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker include something that's very rare in most docs: balance. Any lesser talents directors would have just let the townspeople share their side of the story thereby immediately painting the opposing side as the villain. Instead, they let both sides speak. Yes, Craig Cobb does come across as a racist when he's on camera, but at least he was given the chance to share his perspective. Welcome to Leith unfolds somewhat like a thriller and psychological horror film. It's hard to believe that a white supremacists group like Craig Cobb's could exist in today's world, but then again the KKK still exists. One has to wonder if any members of our government might be supporting or at least enabling those groups which wouldn't be too surprising. It would be interesting if the co-directors were to follow up on the situation at Leith a few years from now because the white supremacists could still come back. The well-edited, frightening Welcome to Leith would probably make a great double feature with another doc related to modern-day racism called Neshoba. It opens via First Run Features at IFC Center.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming), a college professor, gets sent to a labor camp leaving his wife, Feng Wanyu (Gong Li), and daughter, Dandan (Zhang Huiwen) behind. He escapes the camp three years later near the end of the Cultural Revolution, and attempts to reunite with his family. Unfortunately, his wife suffers from amnesia and doesn't recognize him. His daughter, an aspiring dancer, doesn't greet him warmly at first. He desperately tries to find ways for his wife to start remembering him, but she's convinced that he's someone else entirely. Meanwhile, show goes to the train station in hopes that her husband will arrive from the camp now that the Cultural Revolution is over and political prisoners have been released.
Based on the novel by Geling Yan, Coming Home is a melancholic drama that touches the deepest recesses of the heart. Screenwriter Jingzhi Zou and director Zhang Yimou do an impeccable job of bringing out those tears of yours in a way that feels organic because everything feels so true-to-life. Yes, it would be safe to call Coming Home a bit depressing at times, but so what? Some of the best films are very tragic and depressing, i.e. Bicycle Thieves. What makes the film exceptional and captivating, though, is that it's brimming with humanism, a truly special effect that's hard to find in Hollywood films nowadays. Yimou trusts the audience's patience during the slower paced and quiet moments. His attention to period detail helps to enrich the film along with the exquisite cinematography, lighting and costume design. Even the interesting use of color and music sets the somber atmosphere.
Beyond aesthetics, although, the film has a lot to say about the strength and value of true love, although it says it without too many words. You can palpably feel the love that Lu Yanshi has for his wife. When it comes to his daughter, though, their relationship is more complex which makes it all the more interesting. It's also worth mentioning the emotionally convincing performances by everyone onscreen, especially Gong Li and Chem Daoming, each of whom finds the emotional truth of their roles. Prepare to be engrossed from start to finish thanks to those top-notch performances, sensitive screenplay and direction. Unless you're made out of stone, you'll find yourself in tears by the end, so be sure to bring a big box of tissues and spend some time afterward absorbing this deeply human, emotionally gripping film.