Even in a great year for documentaries, Jesse Moss’ Sundance award-winning The Overnighters stands out for its piercing insight into human charity and fallacy, and its unique vantage into the challenges of the new economy. The Overnighters opens this weekend at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and The Dissolve is pleased to offer our readers five pairs of tickets for the 8 p.m. show on Friday and five more pairs for the 3 p.m. show on Saturday. For Friday’s screening, yours truly will host a Skype-assisted Q&A with Moss afterwards, and given the extraordinary revelations that pile up near the end of the film, I’m sure many will be eager to get some answers from him. If you’re interested in attending either screening, please email RSVP@pitchfork.com. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
To make The Overnighters, Moss spent a year in Williston, North Dakota, a town whose population spiked from 14,716 to 20,850 when hydraulic fracking opened up job opportunities in the area. The trouble is, Williston didn’t have the housing to accommodate the new oil boom, even for those lucky enough to find work in the fields. Feeling a Christian duty to help strangers in need, a local lutheran pastor named Jay Reinke decided to open up his church—and its parking lot—for men needing temporary shelter. But this good deed came with major consequences, opening up rifts between Reinke and his congregation, his community, and his family. From my review:
There are an abundance of great angles to Moss’ story, which epitomizes both the working-class desperation of the recession and the insularity of small-town America, which does not want your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses, even if they’re Americans, too. It’s an immigration tale about people who live within the same borders but are not given the same rights and courtesies. And Moss has a riveting subject in Reinke, who keeps on fighting an uphill battle and makes mistakes that speak as much to his extraordinary generosity as to his naiveté, arrogance, and miscalculation. Moss had the instincts to know this situation was a potential powder keg, but he couldn’t have known if it would blow, much less when or how.
For further reading, be sure to check out Moss’ account of a recent screening he held in Williston and the discussion it prompted afterwards. Here is the trailer: