Jesse Moss’s documentary, The Overnighters, has two foci: What happens to the small town of Williston, North Dakota when there is a fracking boon; and a character study of Jay Reinke, Pastor of Williston’s Concordia Lutheran Church.
From an environmental perspective any kind of fossil fuel boon is a tragedy. Absent that perspective, it is a money-maker for many. For Pastor Reinke, it is a challenge to living the ethics and practices promulgated in The New Testament—more specifically, the dictum to ‘love thy neighbor.’
Men from various parts of the United States have come to Williston seeking employment. The town doesn’t have enough accommodations for them; and even if it did, the struggling men would not be able to pay the price. Pastor Reinke offers the church and its parking lot to a limited number of them to sleep overnight whilst they seek employment. His decision to live the above dictum generates predictable controversy within the church’s community and throughout the town.
The film is well-crafted and consistently evocative and provocative of emotionally charged questions and issues. It made a strong showing on the festival circuit, and its virtues were celebrated in the mainstream press—the equivalent of winning the documentary film lottery.
One measure of the power of a story are the thoughts and feelings that reverberate in the viewer’s soul after the story is told. The Overnighters is a powerful film.