- Nikki Baughan
- 27 October 2014
Jesse Moss's oil fracking documentary exposes the myth of the American dream
In the small town of Williston, North Dakota oil fracking has brought big changes, not just to the environment (the once desolate prairies are now dotted with heavy machinery), but also to the local community. The lure of opportunity sees thousands of men arriving in search of a job, many seeking help from the town's church. Pastor Jay Reinke takes them in without question, forging intense and complicated friendships that are the focus of Jesse Moss's compelling film.
Ostensibly a portrait of one man's kindness, The Overnighters paints a far broader picture of the realities of modern life: environmental change, worker migration, the decline of community, the increasing wealth divide and, perhaps most fundamentally, the fallacy of the American dream. The notion that any man can pull himself up by his bootstraps is fundamental to the nation's psyche, and yet proves a fantasy for most. When the people of Williston are faced with the reality that pursuing a fair chance may come with distasteful baggage, they soon turn their backs on the constitutional and religious morals to which they pledge such allegiance.
Against all the naysayers Pastor Reinke stands resolute, endlessly promoting the ideals of love and forgiveness. As his story unfolds, however, some of his decisions seem increasingly odd, and even he begins to question his motives. A final reel revelation throws everything into sharp focus and adds another level of intrigue to this fascinating study of human behaviour.
Although at times Moss's documentary may seem a bit too neat, this is a quirk of circumstance rather than narrative licence. In keeping himself out of the frame, and with excellent contributions from editor Jeff Seymann Gilbert and composer T Griffin, Moss allows the natural facets of this story to shine through, creating a gem of a documentary that's raw, honest and brutally relevant.
Selected release from Fri 31 Oct.