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article imageReview: 'The Overnighters' is a moving story of faith and hypocrisy Special

By Michael Thomas     May 2, 2014 in Entertainment
If you're out of work but could make a six-figure salary elsewhere, would you move? But more importantly, will "elsewhere" be willing to take you in? Jesse Moss takes viewers into Williston, North Dakota in his moving doc, 'The Overnighters.'
When hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") starts happening in North Dakota, Williston becomes a boom town. People from all over the United States hear about the oil workers making six-figure salaries, and literally thousands make the journey to North Dakota.
The problem, of course, is where they'll stay. One church, the Concordia Lutheran Church, starts what's deemed an "overnighter" program, which gives visitors a place to sleep, meals, and job-hunting resources. As can be expected, the decision to let strange men stay in the church doesn't go over well with the churchgoers.
Pastor Jay Reinke is the protagonist of his documentary and head of the Concordia Church. It was his idea to start the program, and everyone except his family seems to think he's crazy for doing so. What he's doing, of course, is practicing his Christian faith, which advocates helping out your neighbours in times of crisis.
Things take a turn for the worse when the Williston crime rate starts to go up, with crimes ranging from robbery to murder. The city aims to create a law banning RVs, which would effectively ban any and all "overnighters." As the film goes on, it slowly comes to light that several people staying in Reinke's church have not-so-clean pasts.
The film is profoundly heartbreaking as Reinke's friendships and standing slowly start to diminish. It's clear that Reinke genuinely wants to help these people, but it's the people themselves who seem unwilling to accept it. Worse, the film accurately portrays the growing fear of Williston residents and Reinke's fruitless attempts at convincing them that they could benefit from actually meeting the men who are trying to support their families.
Family is another issue that comes into play here. A few of the "overnighters" get a particular spotlight including Keegan, formerly of Wisconsin and Michael, formerly of Georgia. Both have left their families to try and support them, and both find work in the oil fields. However, neither of them find the satisfaction they hope to get.
A final revelation about Reinke's life is an added kick in the gut at the end of an already saddening film, and it truly raises questions about who in the world will help those in their hour of need. The Overnighters shows that the answer to that is not easy to find.
More about Hot docs, Documentary, the overnighters, jesse moss
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