San Francisco-based filmmaker Jesse Moss is about to premiere his new documentary, The Bandit, at the SF International Film Festival, and his previous film, the remarkable, shattering The Overnighters (2014) is available streaming on Netflix. When the town of Williston, North Dakota, experiences an oil boom, many out-of-work men from all over the country (and some from all over the world) flock there in search of jobs. But they are also in need of homes, so Pastor Jay Reinke opens the doors of the Concordia Lutheran Church for the men to sleep on floors, benches, or in whatever space available.
While this may seem like a wonderful, humanitarian thing, the locals don’t like all the strangers in town and begin to fear for their safety. Moreover, some of the people looking for shelter are registered sex offenders, and Pastor Reinke doesn’t have it in his heart to turn them away. Meanwhile, Reinke’s family life begins to suffer. Finally, he reveals his own dark secret that could lead to his downfall. Moss films in a cinema verite style, interviewing some of the men in their success and failure, as well as capturing arguments, tense moments (a scary-looking hillbilly woman comes after Reinke with a rifle), and confessions. Moss gives viewers plenty to chew on here, and lets us know that these stories, and others like them, continue.