Sunday, October 29th at The Roxy Cinema, was the screening of the documentary – QUEST “A Portrait of an American Family” –
The documentary took the audience on an emotional ride as we cried, laughed and journeyed with the family on screen. The high-flux of emotions were a product of the family’s rawness and vulnerability that gave the audience no choice, but to connect.
Director Jonathan Olshefski (Jon), producer/filmmaker Sabrina Gordon and to everyone’s surprise, the the 3 members of the Rainey family (Christopher “Quest” Rainy, Christine’a “Ma Quest” and their daughter PJ) were all in attendance post the screening of the film.
Their arrival had the entire room welcoming them with the warmest round of applause. It was sort of a surreal moment as we just watched the family on screen in some of their rawest, bravest and most difficult moments. And now, they were standing in front of us talking about the film, its process and impact.
In short, (no spoilers) the audience journeys with an African American family, the Raineys, in North Philly, during the Obama era as they go through struggles and overcome them through music, family and love.
When asked whether the filmmakers were somewhat “intrusive” throughout the filmmaking process (the process was almost a decade), here’s what the Rainey family had to say:
Quest: No actually, Jon and I hit it off almost immediately. We talked, we exchanged cards. In my neighborhood, it’s kind of segregated so black people live with black people, whites live with whites. So when he first knocked on the door with a camera. The first thing we thought was either he was a cop or a reporter, we didn’t know what he was.
Christine’a: I got comfortable after a while, it was a few times where I might not have felt comfortable like he almost caught me riding a bicycle and thank God he didn’t. I really didn’t think it was going to end up being a movie ‘cause I really would’ve gotten my hair done a lot more. Jon made us comfortable. He’s like family to us so he’s a good guy.
PJ: So when I was little, at first I thought it was real cool and then I started turning into a teenager and I’m like: “it’s not gonna be a movie so why they keep following us?” but then eventually as I got older and I really see what’s going on and I appreciated it.
Furthermore, the moderator went on to ask about the exposure and how the family has reacted to watching the film amongst themselves and the reaction from their community in Philly as well:
PJ: I’m not gonna lie it’s real personal in the movie especially for me because of my eye and stuff. Personally, if it was up to me I don’t want people to see my situation, me taking out my eye, none of that. I just feel like some people need to see certain stuff, they need to be exposed to certain stuff because they might not understand and they might now have a reason to understand.
Quest: In our neighborhood, the exposure is not as wide as it is everywhere else. Everybody in our neighborhood is really trying to get out there. When the studio first started, Meek Mill used to come to our studio when he was a little kid and all these guys from state property, (these are rappers I’m talking about). They used to come to our studio when they were little kids so as they got older, these guys really started going on their own directions so as far as exposure for us, it’s more or less “ok these guys made a movie that’s whats up” – but when we go out into the public and really talk to people and people really get to understand what North Philly is or what our lives are about, then the dialogue opens up, the atmosphere changes, the room gets brighter so to speak. It really is different. When we first go to these towns and people show the movie, a lot of people just look at us like everyday people, but once they see the movie, now we have this reason to see eye-to-eye and people understand we are the same. It did open up the door for us.
Moderator: Christine’a what do you hope people take away after they watch this film?
Christine’a: Empathy. Empathy is something a lot of people need to learn. This world is cruel. And this movie, some people are really empathetic when they see it, some people are not. But empathy is something everybody needs to learn and love, empathy and forgiveness. To get where we’re at right now, we had to do a lot of forgiveness. And North Philly, is hard.
The film’s official theatrical release is opening first in Philadelphia December 1st – New York December 8th – Los Angeles December 15th.
To keep up with the film, you can text the word “QUEST” to 31996 and it’ll ask you for your email address and those in charge of the film will keep in touch with you and let you know where the film is playing.