As richly peopled as a Steinbeck novel, Jesse Moss’ doco about the impact of the oil boom on a small North Dakota town follows the controversial campaign of a local priest to support the influx of homeless job-seekers.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
Jesse Moss’ vérité account of a small-town pastor’s campaign to accommodate homeless men is a more complex and nuanced picture of charity – and its opponents – than you might expect. When fracking brought an oil boom to a small North Dakota town, hordes of unemployed men invaded in search of work. The oil company demanded they have a local residential address, but even if they had the money for rent there was scant accommodation available. Lutheran pastor Jay Reinke and his family hoped to alleviate the crisis, offering shelter at the community church. But some parishioners were affronted by the men sleeping in their church, and before long the town newspaper was accusing Reinke of harbouring felons and ex-cons. Not every charity case was as helpful as they might be in fending off the attacks. Shot over two years, Moss’ electrifying documentary follows the twists and turns of Reinke’s crusade, becoming his confidant and his confessor, and providing revealing glimpses into many other lives along the way. “One of the most remarkable examples of layered non-fiction storytelling to come along in some time.” — Eric Kohn, Indiewire