Filmmaker Jesse Moss brings his award-winning documentary The Overnighters to Princeton. In the tiny town of Williston, North Dakota, tens of thousands of unemployed hopefuls show up looking for work, lured by the oil boom’s promise of plentiful jobs and big paychecks. Once there, however, they face the stark reality of slim job prospects and nowhere to sleep. The town lacks the infrastructure to house the migrants, even those who do find gainful employment. At Concordia Lutheran Church, Pastor Jay Reinke converts his church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center, opening his doors to the “Overnighters” (as he calls them) for a night, a week, or longer. They sleep on the floor, in the pews, and in their cars in the church parking lot. Many who take shelter with Reinke are living on society’s fringes and have checkered pasts, and their presence starts affecting the dynamics of the small community. Reinke’s congregants grow critical and the City Commission threatens to shut the program down, forcing the pastor to make a decision that leads to consequences he never imagined.
The Overnighters dramatizes far-reaching themes: the promise and limits of re-invention, redemption, and compassion, as well as the tension between the moral imperative to “love thy neighbor” and the instinct to protect one’s own.
Sponsored by: Co-sponsored with the Council of the Humanities, the Department of Sociology, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Princeton Environmental Film Festival, the Program in American Studies, and the University Center for Human Values.