Welcome To Leith
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
This documentary about a small North Dakota town’s battle to resist being taken over by white supremacist newcomers has the gut-punch impact of a chilling thriller. Leith, home to just 24 residents, became the home of Craig Cobb, who began picking up its abandoned property. His goal was not to tap into the state’s oil boom but to create a “white nationalist community” for his fellow racists where young women will mate with white Aryan separatist males. His strategy was to take over the village through majority rule, and the government with legal electoral rights. If that recalls Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the swastikas and threatening armed strangers who began showing up across the area underscore the point. Filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker follow the rising alarm of the easygoing locals across tense town hall meetings and confrontations to expel the unwanted invader with cool restraint. From the chilling winter landscapes through the sharply focused accounts of every participant and perspective in the conflict, they have created an objective nonfiction horror movie.
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Violence and sexual subject matter. In subtitled Amharic.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
Based on the true story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl kidnapped for a forced marriage, this is a compelling portrait of deeply rooted sexism and injustice dragging the nation back to a Bronze Age notion of women’s rights. Abducted by galloping horsemen as she walks home from fourth grade, Hirut (Tizita Hagere) escapes, shooting her intended husband with her captors’ rifle as she runs home. The men want to use a knife to kill her on the spot; the court system prefers to follow judicial statutes by giving her a proper death sentence. Meza (Meron Getnet), a female legal aid activist, sets out to argue that the girl’s fatal shooting was a matter of self-defense. Pushing ancient traditions of forced child marriage into the 21st century is no easy matter even when they violate what most countries recognize as basic human rights. Writer/director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari brings impressive creative talent to his first fiction feature; it’s not surprising that Angelina Jolie put her support behind the film as executive producer.
⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for violence, pervasive language and some sexual content.
Theater: Mall of America.
If you photocopy a photocopy of an original work, the image becomes blurry and indistinct. It’s still legible, but not near the quality as the original. This is what it feels like to watch “Heist,” a derivative action-thriller that is more of a pastiche of better films than an actual film itself. With a bus full of people taken hostage, you’ll think of the 1994 Jan de Bont classic “Speed.” With Robert De Niro in a spray tan and chunky necklace, there are shades of his character in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.” But with these references, “Heist” only succeeds in making you wish you were watching “Speed” or “Casino” instead.
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service