‘The Overnighters’ Exposes the Human Toll of the Oil Boom (Exclusive Video)

Oscar-contending documentary follows desperate job-hunters as they flock to North Dakota in search of work

Last Updated: October 2, 2014 @ 9:29 AM

After being touted in the national press as a place overflowing with jobs in the oil industry, the small North Dakota town of Williston has been flooded with hopeful job seekers from around the country.

As director Jesse Moss’ new documentary “The Overnighters” shows, however, the boom has created a plethora of problems for the community.

In this exclusive clip (above) from the Drafthouse Films release, a teary young man explains that his home state of Indiana has a 26 percent rate of unemployment among people with high school diplomas.  He had already exhausted all his avenues back home, and with a little help from his father and grandmother, was able to scrape together a one-way ticket to Williston.

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But as the clip clearly illustrates, Williston isn’t the golden ticket to prosperity it’s been claimed to be. The Indiana man, along with thousands of migrants, are stuck in the small town not only without jobs, but also without places to live or sleep.

Rent has also tripled or quadrupled since the oil boom, with Williston residents who’ve lived there their whole lives forced out due to skyrocketing prices. “Everything is very expensive right now,” says Concordia Lutheran Church Pastor Jay Reinke, who runs a safe haven of sorts for the displaced job seekers who have arrived in his town. He offers the men a place to stay for a month — unless there are problems — and explains that they ask for a gift in return, but do not charge rent.

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“The Overnighters” is also a film about more than just the toll extracted by hard economic times. It’s a personal story that takes a wrenching and wholly unexpected turn; the film, which premiered at Sundance and is a strong contender in this year’s Oscar race for best documentary feature, ends up being far more than just a chronicle of tough times.

“The Overnighters” will open on Oct. 10.

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