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On Your Radar: Film Review The Overnighters
by Karen Pecota

In a remote part of America a phenomenon is taking place similar to that of the 1849 gold rush. A trek to the American frontier in search for opportunity. In Williston, North Dakota the oil business is booming. Specifically, the fracking industry has tripled the small town's population in the past ten years. Unemployment is close to zero. A starting salary for an oil worker can easily exceed $100,000.

Filmmaker Jesse Moss, a student of American history explains that the idea of a truly modern-day Boomtown is hard to imagine. A town calling out "seductive promises of redemption and fortune for the brave and the desperate," is seriously inconceivable. Moss's eye-witness account is documented in his latest film The Overnighters.

At a time when thousands of people are loosing their jobs all across America, the fracking boom in rural areas of North Dakota lures the gold digger. The adventurous. And, the desperate. Men and women from all walks of life arrive in droves at Williston. Often with only the shirt on their back.

The tight-knit community is overwhelmed. Unsure of being hospitable. Uncomfortable with those with a past. Hostility brews. Housing is scarce and expensive. It is not unusual for those who secure employment in the oil fields to be without a place to live. Many live in their cars.

One of town's local clergy, Pastor Jay Reinke, writes an article published in the Williston Herald. He challenges the townspeople to welcome the outsiders, in spite of the town's limited resources. The job seekers have come to their community for promised employment with hopes for a better life. Pastor Reinke and his parish, the Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota decide to open its doors to the weary. They invite men looking for work to sleep in the church and its parking lot.

Filmmaker Jesse Moss reads Pastor Reinke's account. He recalls, "The sincerity of his sentiment struck a chord in me." Moss calls to talk with the Pastor about his article and receives a special invitation to visit the program constructed by the conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Compelled by Pastor Reinke’s warmth and passion, Moss knows a first-hand observation will give insight. He accepts the invitation.

"The lure of the boomtown and its powerful place in the American imagination," says Moss, "is what drew me to Williston, North Dakota." But, when he met Pastor Reinke and observed his compassion for the need around him, Moss had to know more. "The world has arrived on my doorstep," says Pastor Reinke, "What am I going to do about it?"

A deeply unique American story lures the filmmaker and his wife/producer Amanda McBaine to visually document the story of Pastor Reinke's overnight company. Those who laid their head at Concordia Lutheran Church or at the pastor's home night after night. Those diverse individuals who make up a modern-day boom town phenomenon.

Moss and McBaine explain how desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. And, a local Pastor and his family risk everything to help them. Unconditional love. Sacrificial giving. At a cost no one could imagine.