New PBS Documentary Exposes Human Toll Of Oil Boomtown In North Dakota

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The boomtown has always loomed large in the American imagination, but as it makes a comeback in this age of overabundant US oil and gas production, it’s more timely than ever to examine the real impacts on people and communities of the new oil boom — and the inevitable bust.

Filmmaker Jesse Moss has done just that in his new documentary The Overnighters, which captures the human consequences of the oil boom in Williston, North Dakota.

The Overnighters will see its national broadcast premiere on Monday night, June 29, as part of the new season of PBS’s documentary series POV (Point of View). You can check your local listings to see what time it airs on your local PBS affiliate.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s the official description of The Overnighters from PBS’s website:

Chasing the American Dream, thousands of workers flock to a North Dakota town where the oil business is booming. But instead of well-paying jobs, many find slim work prospects and a housing shortage. Pastor Jay Reinke converts his church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center, allowing hundreds of men, some with checkered pasts, to stay. When opposition to the “overnighters” reaches a boiling point, Pastor Jay makes a life-altering decision.

Of course, there are obvious corollaries between Williston, ND and most other extractive regions. Take Fort McKay in Northern Alberta, Canada, for instance. The Guardian recently published a stunning piece documenting how “This tiny First Nations community grew rich on oil, and was wrecked by oil.”
 

Image credit: The Overnighters

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Mike Gaworecki is a San Francisco-based journalist who writes about energy, climate, and forest issues for DeSmogBlog and Mongabay.com. His writing has appeared on BillMoyers.com, Alternet, Treehugger, Change.org, Huffington Post, and more. He is also a novelist whose debut “The Mysticist” came out via FreemadeSF in 2014.

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