Quest Screen 13 articles



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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • It's the type of independent film about American life that should be common but is rare in actuality, because there's nothing commercial or grabby about capturing a family's domestic routines so directly. That Olshefski could never have imagined a stray bullet transforming his documentary is part of its fundamental integrity, because he clearly felt a less dramatic portrait of the Raineys would have been compelling enough on its own. He's right.

  • Only 90 minutes long, the film feels intimate and yet at the same time vast. It has a relaxed pace, but an intensity of focus. . . . What interested Olshefski was Chris and Christine'a, as people. They are both riveting to watch, and even more so to listen to. Maybe it is because they approach life from a thoughtful and deep place, even as the slings and arrows come at them from every which way.

  • One of the great virtues of Quest is precisely that it gives us a sense of what struggling feels like, without rhetoric or melodramatic flourishes. Utz and Olshefski are canny in parceling out information, letting things emerge, it seems, when the film’s subjects feel like opening up about them.

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