Doc/Fest: The Overnighters

As an employment crisis grips American, the small town of Williston, North Dakota is swamped by an influx of workers following a modern-day gold rush. Their target are the oilfields that have been discovered outside of the town. But with prosperity and its allure comes the burden of homelessness and broken dreams – The Overnighters charts the fortunes of a program set up by Pastor Jay Reinke where those without food and shelter are provided it by the church. Of course, the smooth operating of the program cannot last against the tide of fear.

Jesse Moss has crafted a film which tackles head-on the same issues that Pastor Reinke sought to tackle. The Overnighters is a film about the broken dreams of the modern American economy, but, subtly, the film turns into something more introspective: an examination of the rights and wrongs of leadership, of what family means in this version of America, and whether it is possible to be both fallible and good. Moss’s film does this expertly – the film is nuanced yet captivating, as the stories of the Williston overnighters weave in and out of that of the key contributor, Pastor Reinke.

In Jay Reinke, Moss hit the jackpot. He is both immensely likeable and driven, yet clearly a flawed communicator. At one point in the film, Reinke says that he never felt at home in Williston, and it doesn’t feel reactionary or intended for the cameras, instead, Reinke is articulating something at the back of the viewers minds throughout. Reinke’s story grounds the film and provides it with its astonishing final act (one of *the* great moments of modern documentary filmmaking), but The Overnighters never ceases to address the core concerns of modern America. By managing this feat of close examination and broad reflection, the film manages to be an astonishing portrait of working class America, as well as a profound and riveting domestic drama.

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5
Title: The Overnighters
Director: Jesse Moss
Running time: A couple of hours, but well-crafted

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