Monday, May 5, 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Film Review - The Overnighters

We first meet Pastor Jay Reinke as he walks through what appears to be a dorm knocking on doors to wake up individuals who appear to be all males and making the viewer think that this could be a teacher or coach waking up students or players for an activity. Then he continues through the halls the sleepers continue to be males but are obviously too old to be students confusion begins to set in.  Finally as he heads outside to wake people up in their cars all early suppositions are lost.

This is the introduction to director Jesse Moss' The Overnighters. The tough U.S economy, extreme unemployment in many States, and desperation amongst the down and out lead thousands of people to Willston, North Dakota. The State features the fastest growing economy in the Union skyrocketing  housing and food prices along with plenty of jobs in the oil fields as fracking is booming in the area.

The migrant workers many of whom are from the lower rungs of society, some with criminal records have a polarizing effect on the community.  They are not invested as most have family members back home in other states. Violence is on the uptick and the local paper fuels the fire glorifying any and all transgressions in the migrant community both big and small.

Director Jesse Moss first came across this subject from an economic and business sense. The North Dakota oil boom is due to hydraulic fracturing. The new technology meant business and employment drawing men from all over the country to the state seeking employment. But once in the state he read an article from Pastor Reinke drawing him to his Concordia Lutheran Church in Willston to chart a different type of story.

Pastor Reinke is a fascinating character as the majority of the town closes their doors and shuts their blinds to the visitors he champions the notion of love thy brother doing whatever he can to help these men out. He lays out a simple set of rules for the men upon arm stances surrounding rival then does all that he can along with is family to be an advocate. He even takes a worker to his home on occasion when their past is too controversial for them to stay at the church and potentially jeopardize the Overnighters program.

Moss focuses his lens on a half a dozen men. Some have a lack of success in the beginning then find steady work. Others get hired on right away and some don't have any luck at all finding work. But at the heart of the piece is the realization of all involved that Willston is not their home, they are all just passing through and despite a strong supporter like Paster Reinke it is very hard today in the United States to pull oneself up from the lower levels of society despite being willing to go anywhere in the country for work especially if you have a serious mark against you name from past actions.

*** 1/2 out of 4.

The Overnighters | Jay Moss | U.S.A. | 2013 | 101 Minutes.

Tags: Fracking,  Oil Boom, Sexual Offender, Adultery, Lutheran Church, North Dakota, Migrant Workers.

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