is like a punch in the gut. I can’t remember the last time a documentary hit me
so hard. What’s all the more remarkable is that filmmaker Jesse Moss (who shot
this film by himself) had no idea whether his investment of time would pay off.
He ventured to Williston, North Dakota in the belief that there had to be a
story there: the small community has become a boom town, thanks to fracking,
and he reasoned that every boom town in history has yielded colorful and
dramatic tales. He was right, but I doubt that he envisioned the way his
feature would turn out.
Lured by the promise of high-paying jobs, men have traveled
from all over the map to Williston, many of them desperate; at the end of their
rope. Some have left families behind, hoping to earn enough money to support
them or at least get a fresh start. When they arrive, they learn that most of
the jobs are taken. They find themselves without hope—and without homes.
That’s where Lutheran pastor Jay Reinke steps into the picture.
He believes that the least he can do is offer the men food and shelter at his
church. He has the support of his congregation, at first, but as the itinerant
population swells, people start to question his mission and even his
motivation. His response is to dig in his heels.
I won’t spoil the movie by revealing more; let’s just say
that The Overnighters is layered,
provocative, and surprisingly intimate. It reminds us that we shouldn’t rush to
judge any individual. We’re all in search of answers; some of us are just
luckier than others. After meeting the unfortunate men depicted here—and the
troubled pastor who tries to protect them, I feel truly blessed. If ever a film
made me think, “There but for the grace of God go I,” this is it.
heads in unexpected directions and builds to a crescendo of emotion. As writer,
director, and cinematographer, Jesse Moss deserves tremendous credit for his
Note: Jesse Moss will be appearing with the film this
weekend at the NuArt in Los Angeles. For details and information on other
bookings around the country, click HERE.