Quest Screen 93 of 10 reviews

Quest

2017

Quest Poster
  • Jonathan Olshefski’s documentary is certainly an eloquent argument in favour of the kind of filmmaking that takes ‘ordinary’ people, rather than PR-savvy celebrities or obviously world-shaking events, as its subject matter. Simply by observing, with interest, respect and infinite patience, the quotidian lives of its highly likeable protagonist and his family, the film attains a rare level of insight and complexity.

  • There’s no real narrative through-line, as Olshefski just captures events as they happen and allows for any deeper themes or messages to emanate from the material naturally. Despite covering the full gamut of life’s harsh trials, it’s a film powered by pure positive vibes.

  • Though stylistically opposed – Olshefski’s expansive sociopolitical saga brings to mind the urban panoramas of Steve James, while Ford’s more reflexive approach pulls from a distinctly personal strain of essayistic nonfiction – these two films [Quest and Strong Island] together sketch a powerful portrait of the modern African American experience.

  • Ambiguities, opacities, contradictions, unsolved mysteries are what make Jonathan Olshefski’s Quest so exciting.

  • In a conventional documentary, any of these tangents might be staged as the obstacle that shall be qualifiedly overcome so as to implicitly give predominantly white art-film patrons a misleading sense of optimism and security about the project of equality in the United States. By contrast, Olshefski achieves a revelatory kind of de-emphasis in which each anecdote speaks for itself, cumulatively creating a suggestively multi-stranding emotional tapestry.

  • The racist-in-chief appears on TV toward the end of Quest, a remarkably intimate portrait of the Rainey family of North Philadelphia, who seem to have welcomed Olshefski and his camera into their home for nine years out of the kindness and generosity of spirit that infuse this nearly pure vérité film and made it the festival’s most inspiring gift.

  • A decades-plus labor of love from Jonathan Olshefski, about a black Philadelphia family that looks at ordinary people enduring familiar and uncommon experiences, including violence. Much of the movie’s power arises from its insistence on how larger forces affect lives

  • Olshefski’s unobtrusive camera (he’s also the cinematographer) follows the Rainey family through the good and the bad, using the political climate at whatever point they’re at to frame intimate moments within a larger societal framework. Much as Steve James’ HOOP DREAMS and Margaret Byrne’s RAISING BERTIE utilized years-long shooting times to document their subjects, QUEST confronts stereotypes with longevity, showing us there’s often more than meets the eye.

  • It's a film with a broad scope, to be sure. But nothing radiates from this film quite as powerfully as the fundamental decency of this family -- their unwavering commitment to each other and to the various souls in their immediate orbit.

  • The emphasis is on immersion rather than conspicuous formal elegance: it’s trad verite, plus one of those generic ambient scores that’s the current bane of so many indies, both fiction and non-. This doesn’t make the cumulative effect any less powerful... It’s a memory rush building to an ugly national climax, and the baked-in effect is of a eulogy for any possibility of decency or tolerance on a federal level, no matter how ineffectual that might be in combating societal ills.

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