Monday, March 2, 2015

The Overnighters

The Overnighters is an intricate documentary. It is a portrait of a unique man a local pastor (Reinke?) who helps home hundreds of job seekers in a small North Dakota town. At the same time it is an exploration of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness in the US today.

Unemployed job seekers from all over the country were drawn to the town in North Dakota because of its oil fracking business and the relatively high minimum wage of $15 an hour. Upon arriving many learn that there is no available housing because prices have risen so much. In response, a local pastor lets the men stay in his church, setting up cots and allowing people to sleep on the floor as well. He has house rules but he doesn't seem to turn anyone away -- even people with multiple felonies. The documentary follows several of these men over time.

The drama of The Overnighters centers on the parish and the town's reaction to these transients in their midst. The pastor wants people to feel religious sentiment towards those suffering and struggling to overcome obstacles, but they respond with hostility. The pastor's inner conflicts about his mission to help the overnighters and his obligation to to his parish and his family are delved into.

I found this documentary to be very engaging, painful, important, and dramatic (in spite of rather slow pacing). Searching for information about it online I saw it somewhere described as a "modern day Grapes of Wrath".

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