Resuming my film-by-film look at the docs of Sundance 2014: Jesse Moss’ US Documentary Competition title THE OVERNIGHTERS, in which a smalltown pastor’s desire to help the unfortunate threatens to turn his congregation against him.
Sundance Program Description:
When hydraulic fracturing unlocks an vast oil field in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, tens of thousands of unemployed men descend on the state with dreams of six-figure salaries. In the tiny town of Williston, busloads of newcomers step into the sad reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. Over at Concordia Lutheran Church, Pastor Jay Reinke is hell-bent on delivering the migrants some dignity. Night after night he converts his church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center.
But as broken men arrive in droves, the congregants sling criticism, neighbors get suspicious, and the town threatens an ordinance to shut Reinke down. When the Williston Herald gets wind that sex offenders are among Reinke’s “overnighters,” even the pastor’s supernatural determination can’t stop things from spinning out of control. How much will he sacrifice for his crusade of compassion? With unfettered access to electrifying and poignant moments, it’s impossible not to be riveted by the pastor’s dogged battle in a treacherous world where no man is immune to losing everything.
Moss is best-known for his documentaries SPEEDO, which debuted at SXSW; FULL BATTLE RATTLE, which premiered at Berlin; and CON MAN, produced by HBO Documentary Films. Among his other credits are two Sundance alums: he was an associate producer for ON THE ROPES (1999, special jury prize) and a producer for WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE (2009). Moss received support for the project from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program last year.
Why You Should Watch:
A portrait of desperation borne of the challenging economy, Moss’ film is revelatory. In Pastor Jay Reinke, Moss has found a complex subject dealing with an even more complicated situation. His mission of charity, skirting a fine line between selflessness and recklessness, brings up provocative questions around community, faith, service, and second chances – and their limits – leading to sometimes unexpected consequences.
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page and website. Check out Moss’ Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.