Dir: Jesse Moss (2014)
The dangers of fracking have been looked at quite a lot of late; Josh Fox‘s marvellous documentary Gasland and Gus Van Sant‘s less marvellous Promised Land both looked directly at the problem. Jesse Moss takes a different tac with the absolutely fantastic The Overnighters. The fracking industry hit North Dakota hard; the population of the state increased exponentially with the promise of jobs, money and the Stienbeckian American Dream and this film looks at a new kind of gold rush.
Moss investigates the small town of Williston and in particular a small parish and Jay Reinke the almost Ned Flanders like pastor who firmly believes in helping the men and women waiting for the jobs to come; His church becomes a hotel for the over spill of workers and his life too goes under the microscope. The small town mentality of Williston begins to grate on Reinke and the sheer number of strangers milling around becomes a real problem when a Montana schoolteacher is found dead. Moss looks at Reinke’s family; His long-suffering wife and his happy to help children.
It’s when the help thy neighbour attitude of Reinke brings a man called Graves, a registered sex offender, into his house that the pastor begins to unravel and Moss’ want to love him falls away. His temper rises and The Overnighters becomes much more complex as reporters and enraged neighbours cloud the genuinity of his program and his promise to help. The films bold and simple style, heart and soul, and its snapshots of these people who have left their struggling families to make good work feels almost like a timeless American story; One worthy of your time.