First Screening of Sundance 2014: The Overnighters

Another amazing benefit of volunteering is that we get special early volunteer screenings. These are almost always guaranteed entry and also act as a really nice reunion with all the faces I haven’t seen in a year.

This year’s first volunteer screening was the documentary “The Overnighters”.

One line review: “This film captures the dark side of a booming industry in America, and follows a lone man as he fights to support a struggling group of men seeking work. While the subject matter of this film is fascinating and very important, the storytelling is meandering and doesn’t serve the content well.”

Overall, the subject matter for this documentary was very strong. I was constantly captured by this side of America I had never seen before, but also saddened by it. The pastor they follow is one of the most compelling documentary subjects I think I’ve seen. He’s completely saturated with compassion and love, but as the doc goes on you wonder if it’s genuine or being expressed in excess for other reasons. There’s no question that he doesn’t sincerely care about helping people, but what motivates you to help other people is a different matter altogether.

While I wanted so badly to be constantly engaged in this film, it meandered a lot. The struggle is there are so many interesting stories that take place within this film that it starts to get cluttered. It doesn’t feel like anything was let go. It needs to work on developing its arc just a little bit more and streamlining the content to support the ending….speaking of which…..!

The film takes a complete blindsiding turn towards the end that will definitely make you go “…huh??” From what we learned after the screening, this bit was added last minute because it was a very recent development that they felt was important to include….but that’s exactly how it feels in the film: “tacked on the end”. Ideally they should go through the whole piece and incorporate more of a build to their new ending, but also they need to trim the fat on a lot of other stories that end up feeling excessive. The way the film ends is definitely an incredible irony and gives a nice (sad) full circle to the piece, and so I think it belongs there, it just doesn’t feel like it does yet.

Overall, I think that there is SO much compelling content and characters in this documentary that it’s definitely got something. The amount of work and compassion the pastor offers to these lost souls is just remarkable—especially considering how much the rest of the town fights against the cause.
The real issue is this film hasn’t picked a consistent theme. There are SO many important issues this film addresses, but I think they just got distracted by their incredibly fascinating lead character and lost what the film should really be about. Or maybe it should just be about Pastor Reinke? All I’m saying is: I think it just needs to be reworked a bit longer in post. Pick one story to tell and stick with it. There’s so much potential!

On to more!