Like a modern-day gold rush, when hydraulic fracking unlocks a vast oil field in the small North Dakota town of Williston, tens of thousands of unemployed men show up with dreams if six-figure salaries. Filmmaker Jesse Moss showed up with a camera.
Over the course of a year and a half, Moss follows the overflowing stream of migrants – who soon discover the grim reality of slim work and no where to sleep – into the doors of a Lutheran church run by Pastor Jay Reinke, who counsels the workers and allows them to sleep in his church, in the parking lot, then eventually in his home – much to the horror of the community.
As the town threatens an ordinance to shut Reinke down, and the local paper gets wind that sex offenders are among Reinke’s “overnighters,” even the pastor’s tireless determination to help can’t stop things from spiraling out of control.
One overnighter in the film, Keith Graves, a truck driver from California who in 1999 was convicted of a sex-offense felony, is welcomed into Reinke’s home, instead of the church, in order to shield the congregation from criticism.
“A sin or a crime, while it is real and a part of one’s record, I would submit may not be the definition of one’s life,” Reinke said in the film, regarding his decision.
Indiewire said The Overnighters is “one of the most remarkable examples of layered non-fiction storytelling to come align in some time.” One movie review website gave the film an overall score of 91% out of 11 critical reviews, with 96% of the website’s audience wanting to see it when it comes out.
This is what movie critic Nicholas Rapold said of the documentary:
“Moss, who shoots the film himself verité-style, gets points for his on-the-ground look at the sacrifices made by those seeking a living (while leaving families behind) and at the day-to-day problems raised when merciless economic interests come into play.”
The Overnighters also won a Special Jury Award for Intuitive Filmmaking earthier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. It opens Oct. 10 in New York and dates for screenings in other cities across the country including Austin and San Francisco are set through December.
Click here to find out about upcoming screenings of The Overnighters and how you can help bring the film to your town.