(directed by Jesse Moss, 2014)
****+ (out of 5)
> I have been so moved lately by the latest spate of socially conscious documentaries to shine a clear, bright eye on seemingly intractable American problems. Important and powerful films (like examples) give me some glimmer of hope that at least someone is telling the truth about the hard choices we face in this country. It’s heartening to know that there is someone who is not just throwing in the towel and capitulating to the soulless interests of Big Business, but actively and earnestly examining thorny issues and offering some fresh perspectives to deal with them.
. This is a truly devastating examination of the desperation of economics in this morally diseased country- how so many are left behind in the rush to globalization. (And it got a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes!) It’s an examination of the boom-and-bust cycle created by unchecked market forces, that view people as disposable tools to achieve their ends: generators of more obscene profits for fat cat investors. In our blind, headlong rush to support the wealthy and punish the poor, we disrupt- and even destroy countless lives in the process. The (former) middle-class is hurting: badly! There is no upward mobility in this country. (The “American Dream” is a destructive lie!) Thanks to the immoral, environmentally criminal practice of fracking, our energy sectors are suddenly booming. As oil prices sink, this evil technology is used to wring every last drop of liquid dinosaur from the ground, replacing it with highly toxic chemicals that WILL- ABSOLUTELY WILL contaminate our precious groundwater over time. (And we aren’t even allowed to know what these chemicals are! It’s protected as being “proprietary”.) Industry apologists who deny this are FUCKING LIARS seeking profit uber alles- at the expense of the public health and welfare.
. Because of the new economic and technological realities, it has suddenly become cost effective to reopen long abandoned oil fields in North Dakota, until recently a sparsely populated wilderness with little economic engine to drive growth. As a result, desperate people pack up their lives and move there by the hundreds daily, seduced by the often-illusory lure of high-paying oil jobs. And there is work there- for highly skilled laborers mostly- not so much for entry-level workers. (Prostitutes, on the other hand, are doing a booming business.) Huge numbers of the hopeful arrive to find a hostile welcome from locals who feel their relaxed, country way of life is under assault by the mass migration. For most, if they don’t secure a position in the booming industry within a week of their arrival- they never will. The oil industry simply does not want these people. No one does. They are the human refuse of a failed system.
. Fortunately, for a while anyway, there was one Lutheran minister in Williston who actually understood and remembered what it is supposed to mean, to be “Christian”. While fear and hatred of these economic refugees grew and swelled in the community all around him- and within his own congregation, pastor Jay Reinke steadfastly followed the true precepts of Christianity and welcomed these people into his care. He allowed them to camp in the church parking lot, to the anger and frustration of the reactive neighbors, and opened the hallways inside for drifters in sleeping bags to roost. And when all else failed- he invited these struggling people into his own home until they could find a situation. But it all begins to unravel when the forces of intolerance organize to stop his “overnighters” program, imagining that if they just treat these arriving hordes badly, then they will just go away. This attitude is so UN-Christian it’s actually evil. These overwrought haters are evil hypocrites. There is NOTHING “Christian” about them.
. This film is packed with heart-wrenching testimonials from people who are just doing everything they can think of to provide good lives for their families, only to be vilified and ostracized for their efforts. And as the tension mounts, the pastor’s life is not immune from terrible consequences, with revelations in the final reel that bring the entire universe down on this good, flawed man, simply because he had the nerve to be… human!
> Powerful and intense. See it and weep.
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