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SFSU Lecturer’s Documentary a Success

Jesse Moss, a lecturer in the Cinema department at San Francisco State, spent 18 months in North Dakota as a one-man documentary crew, capturing intimate portraits of desperate, broken men chasing their dreams and running from their demons in the oil fields, and a local pastor who risks everything to help them. Moss’ effort has paid off, as the resulting feature, The Overnighters, has garnered awards at film festivals from Sundance to San Francisco and widespread critical acclaim from GQ to Variety. Up next: a theatrical release, accompanied by a push for the Academy Awards.

Drafthouse Films acquired the The Overnighters for theatrical release this winter — with the Oscars in mind.

“I have shown the film to a small group of friends and family,” Drafthouse founder Tim League says in a statement. “After each screening, a lengthy and heated discussion has arisen on the themes of the American dream, forgiveness, what it means to be a good person. We hope to take this spectacularly thought-provoking documentary all the way to the Oscars in 2015.”

The Overnighters premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Intuitive Filmmaking. Other prizes include the Golden Gate Award for Best Feature Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize at the Miami International Film Festival and Inspiration Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Moss’ previous films include Full Battle Rattle, which premiered at the 2008 Berlinale, won the Special Jury Prize at SXSW and opened theatrically at the Film Forum in New York. Prior, he directed Speedo: A Demolition Derby Love Story, which won festival awards and critical raves across the country, was acquired by PBS and optioned by Warner Bros Pictures. HBO commissioned his first film, Con Man, about an Ivy League impostor. Moss also produced William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, which premiered at Sundance in 2009, and was distributed theatrically by Arthouse Films. He has twice been a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.