Browsing: Jesse Moss


We live in a world beset by fear. People are resentful, frightened, suspicious and insular, and as frustrating as that behavior is, sometimes, it’s entirely understandable. But when that fear becomes hatred and illogical, and when towns start passing ordinances in an attempt to stop people feeding the poor or helping the homeless …

Film Festival Mugshot (2014) (dir. Dennis Mohr)

An oil boom struck North Dakota in 2006. Oil patches were discovered near the small town of Williston, attracting oil companies and thousands of laborers. With oil comes a lot of money but at what cost? Surrounding communities could not possibly house all traveling laborers, so the homeless blue collar workers slept in empty parking lots, the side of the road or…

Film Festival richhill_4-2

This is a true story. During the Q&A of the screening I attended of Actress, Robert Greene’s complex and artfully human new documentary, one woman couldn’t get through her question before losing her struggle with tears. She commended Brandy Burre, the subject, more or less for her vulnerability. Then she lost it, sobbing silently in the unlit audience as slews of “I thought this scene was…”-es and “How did you…”-s finished off the fifteen minutes.
For everything Actress is, emotionally devastating isn’t the first attribute I’d assign it. Burre, who’s theater-trained, had broached ‘making it’ with a role on The Wire. Soon after, she opted out of the industry to be a mom. Her six-year absence from acting sapped her and strained her relationship with her partner, the father of her children. The documentary, chronicling her reentry into the biz, has its emotional turbulences, to be certain. But its strengths lie in its insight and patience, as the actress in Burre comes out more and more to interact with the camera. Those aren’t necessarily the most wrenching traits.

Film Festival The Green Prince
(dir. Nadav Schirman)

Maybe I just picked the perfect year to start coming, but I suspect that the 2014 True/False Fest was fairly typical of the event’s high quality and welcoming atmosphere. It’s definitely a film festival to watch, and to attend yourself, if you get the chance. I know I’ll be back. Here are my final thoughts via some awards. (Note: because of its slightly different nature, I’ve not made Richard Linklater’s Boyhood eligible for any of these awards. Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that you should see this film as soon as you possible can.)

Film Festival jd_1-1

It can be easy to miss amidst the heavy emotional punch the film carries, but Jesse Moss’ The Overnighters brings a refreshing nuance to its story of a pastor torn between his family and congregation on the one hand, and the pull he feels to love his neighbors, in this case the itinerant workers who pour into Williston, North Dakota looking for work in the newly established oil fields. Moss presents Jay Reinke as a man driven, almost possessed by holy love for the stranger, yet at the same time a man deeply broken: manipulative, power hungry, and hypocritical.
Since fracking opened up the possibility of oil production in western North Dakota, people from all over the country – many unemployable by most standards – have congregated in the area, lured by the promise of lucrative jobs. They often find the promise empty, though, and arrive without accommodations or much hope. Jay Reinke, pastor of Concordia Lutheran, set up a program to let these men sleep on the floor of his church. As the program swells, though, he faces opposition from his own congregation, who feel nervous at the change in the status quo, and from the surrounding community, who view the men as dangerous interlopers. The program takes its toll on Reinke’s family as well, who seem supportive but clearly feel worn down. Despite his good motives, Reinke also alienates some men whom he has helped, who see him as pushy and deceitful. It’s a story told simply, with beautiful shots of the prairies suggesting the empty spaces between human beings that plague our efforts to live together in love. The film starts out a little too slow, and weaves in some strands that do not add much to the narrative; there’s also a crucial piece of information that gets withheld until the end which changes the film, and it seems a bit like cheating that Moss held his cards so close. Still, The Overnighters is a film that recognizes the challenges involved in sacrificial love while remaining hopeful for the possibility.