Doc Thoughts: The Overnighters

overnightersA booming oil industry results in flocks of people migrating to the town of Williston, North Dakota, in the search for work. With many of these people having no place to stay, Jay Reinke, Pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, begins an “overnighters” program, where he allows outsiders to either sleep inside the church or park their cars or RVs in the parking lot.  However, as the number of overnighters grow, the rest of the community begin to become wary of these outsiders.  When some revelations about some of the people Reinke has been sheltering becomes public, it endangers both the overnighters program and Reinke’s career as Pastor. Pastor Jay Reinke is man that tries to live by the Christian rule of “love thy neighbour.”  Despite opposition from the community and his own parishioners, Reinke is determined to give these outsiders looking for work shelter.  However, Reinke’s problem is that he doesn’t say “no” very well and is willing to shelter people, even if they have a somewhat checkered past, which may get him into trouble if made public. While The Overnighters does focus on some of the individuals that came to Williston to find work, the main subject of the film is undoubtedly Reinke.  In fact, the film progressively moves from being solely about the overnighters program to being about Reinke and how he fits within the town’s community. Despite Reinke’s good intentions, the overnighters program becomes increasingly unpopular among his parishioners, who believe that these strangers are just in in the town to “rape, pillage, and burn, then leave.”  It doesn’t help that there was a teacher murdered in the area, which makes the town all the more fearful of these strangers. One major issue that Jay Reinke has to deal with over the course of The Overnighters is the revelation that a number of the people that he has been sheltering are registered sex offenders.  Even though Reinke is a man that is totally willing to forgive the sins of others, this revelation forces him to take action and tell these individuals that they would have to leave.  In many ways, Reinke becomes an outsider himself, especially as the town, and even some of the people he’s been sheltering, begin to turn against him. Right when you think you know where The Overnighters is heading, a revelation is made towards the end, which turns everything else on its head. This revelation is such a bombshell that it completely recontextualizes the film that has come before it and it makes The Overnighters all the better because of it. Overall, The Overnighters is a very well done documentary about a man who risks everything to help those in need.  9 | REALLY LIKED IT The Overnighters opens today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox