Friday, December 8, 2017

Movie with Abe: Quest

Directed by Jonathan Olshefski
Released December 8, 2017

Every documentary seeks to tell a story, to inform a broad audience about a subject that the people involved in its production want to be told. If there is already considerable publicity about the subject, that can make getting financing for a project and distributing it less arduous, though there are plenty of smaller, lesser-known topics worthy of being featured in a film. Capturing a facet of society by following just one family is not an easy task, yet that’s just what this new documentary seeks to do: showcasing a segment of the African-American population in the United States filled with hard workers facing countless obstacles and pushing on to persevere nonetheless.

“Quest” follows the Rainey family over the course of nearly decade in North Philadelphia. Christopher, better known as Quest, works a number of jobs to earn a living, and his wife Christine’a works at a women’s shelter. Their children have to deal with tremendous adversity, as their son William is raising a baby while being treated for cancer and their daughter PJ loses an eye as a result of a stray bullet. Through everything they experience, they maintain an optimistic attitude thanks to the hip-hop music recorded in their home music studio, enabling them to express themselves in a creative way and share their story with those willing to listen.

Unlike many other documentaries, this one includes few descriptive title cards, instead illustrating only the places in which its scenes take place. The members of the Rainey family speak entirely for themselves, and it hardly feels like a camera is present since they have conversations and interactions that seem remarkably sincere and genuine, not at all staged. Their television – an old-fashioned device rarely seen these days – remains on for a number of the film’s scenes, utilizing momentous events such as Obama’s reelection and his emotional speech following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as jumping off points for commentary on what this meant for the country and for their community.

Ultimately, the members of the Rainey family are ordinary people trying to make it as numerous barriers pop up to block their road to mediocre prosperity. Music isn’t all they make to try to inspire others, as they tell others to get out and vote and then march to make their voices heard. What they experience is symbolic of what many whose stories aren’t told go through, and this extremely intimate and completely honest film captures the determination of this family not to be defined by what society wants to think of them.


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