QUEST: A Portrait of an American Family

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U.S. Distributor: First Run Features

View complete list of past screenings here

Press Releases: Theatrical (PDF) | Broadcast (PDF)

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Please contact us if you would like to bring QUEST to your community or classroom. If you would like to partner with us on our community engagement and impact campaign email us at:

The QUEST Community Engagement and Impact Campaign is underway! Help us bring the film and the Raineys to communities all over the country, including yours! We’re working with local partners to create robust events that pair the screenings with educational, civic engagement, community empowerment and youth projects, and include special guest speakers, workshops, hackathons, performance, music, visual art, resource-building, advocacy and more! Click below to donate. All donations are tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor! DONATE

You can download a partner toolkit, discussion guide, and lesson plan on the PBS website here:

QUEST poster


An intimate documentary film that captures ten years in the life of a family living in North Philadelphia.

Synopsis: Filmed with vérité intimacy for nearly a decade, QUEST is the moving portrait of the Rainey family living in North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, Christopher "Quest" Rainey, and his wife, Christine'a "Ma Quest" raise a family while nurturing a community of hip hop artists in their home music studio. It's a safe space where all are welcome, but this creative sanctuary can't always shield them from the strife that grips their neighborhood. Epic in scope, QUEST is a vivid illumination of race and class in America, and a testament to love, healing and hope.

World Premiere: U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

U.S. Broadcast Premiere: PBS American Documentary | POV on June 18, 2018

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Note From Filmmakers

Jonathan Olshefski (director) Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (producer)

June 15, 2018


Wow! So much going on right now. We are just a few days away from our national broadcast on PBS. We are doing our best to get the word out far and wide. Our interview on NPR's Fresh Air will be rebroadcast this afternoon.

We had a really great event on Tuesday at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia where PJ performed after the credits rolled at the end of the movie. You can watch her do her thing HERE and we posted photos HERE. Man, we're just still pumped about that night. You can hear some of her music on her Soundcloud page. The story continues!


Jonathan Olshefski and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

PJ Rainey at the Kimmel Center on June 12, 2018

November 1, 2017

Hi QUEST followers,

It has been an incredible year! We are very proud of the honors and accolades that QUEST has received, but the thing we value the most are the relationships. Festivals and critics often describe the film as a labor of love, but we have to say that we have been on the receiving end for a lot of it. Beginning with the Rainey family and the North Philadelphia community. To funders and supporters who cleared a path to get the film made. To the amazing film team who invested their hearts and souls along with their talents to craft the film. To audiences who experience the love in the story and reflect it back.

We hope that, beyond building an initial connection with viewers, the film will spark real commitment to support and embrace communities like North Philadelphia. We are developing an impact and engagement campaign around the film to create a context for this to happen and we are looking for individuals and organizations to partner with us in this effort.

Every independent film needs champions to get made and we are so grateful to everyone who made this film possible. Now we need champions to help us get the word out so that we can bring this important story to more people. Thank you for being a part of this.


Jonathan "Peter Parker" Olshefski and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon


Select Reviews

"Critics Consensus: Simultaneously sweeping and intimate, Quest uses one family's experiences to offer trenchant, wide-ranging observations about modern American life."

Critic's Pick. "An intimate and patient portrait of a North Philadelphia family [...] I’ve rarely seen a movie about citizenship as quietly eloquent as Quest."

"Radiant filmmaking debut [...] the director discovers an everyday American story of extraordinary strength."

"A beautiful film...evokes the peerless 'Hoop Dreams' and qualifies as a sort of longitudinal study. But there's nothing academic about it. To the contrary, Quest is intimate, warm yet unsentimental and agreeably rambling."

"There are biographical documentaries, fortunate to the point of being blessed, that start as fly-on-the-wall journalism and luck into better-than-fiction narrative twists. The remarkable Quest is one of them."

"A rich and rewarding movie. One of the year's best documentaries...a gift."

"Best Docs of 2017 - #4! Devoid of any political posturing or editorial agenda, Quest is a jarring and gentle testament to the powers of family and individual kindness."

"Superb. A living, breathing, stunning documentary."

"A sweeping and intimate documentary about the struggles of an average American family."

Select Press

• National Public Radio - Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 20, 2017
A Filmmaker's 'Quest' For A Quiet Family Portrait Is Pierced By Unforeseen Trauma
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• Philadelphia Inquirer, Mike Newall, February 14, 2016
A portrait of a family and a window into the city
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• Sundance Institute, staff, November 29, 2016
2017 Sundance Film Festival: Competition And Next Lineup Announced
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• Indiewire, Chris O’Falt, January 23, 2017
‘QUEST’: How a Photo Essay Turned into a Documentary About 8 Years in the Life of a North Philly Family
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• Filmmaker Magazine, Staff, January 25, 2017
“I Became Like Furniture”: Director/DP Jonathan Olshefski on QUEST
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• Birth Death Movies, Jason Gorber, January 30, 2017
Sundance Interview: QUEST’s Jonathan Olshefski And Sabrina Schmidt Gordon. How a ten-year-journey become of of this Sundance's best documentaries
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• Roger, Sasha Kohan, January, 30, 2017
Sundance 2017 Interview: The Filmmakers of “QUEST”
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• The Duke Chronicle, Nina Wilder, April 12, 2017
Full Frame 2017: Interview with the cast and crew of ‘QUEST’
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• Hot Docs Jots, staff, April 25, 2017
Director Jonathan Olshefski and Producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon discuss process in QUEST
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• PDN Photo District News, Holly Stuart Hughes, June 2017
An American Family/First-Time Director Jonathan Olshefski on Creating a Feature-Length Documentary
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• Art Forum, Amy Taubin, Summer 2017
Everyday People: Jonathan Olshefski’s Documentary Portrait of an American Family in Philadelphia
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• Full Frame, staff, August 31, 2017
Director Jonathan Olshefski on QUEST
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• Filmmaker Magazine, Vadim Rizov, Fall 2017
25 New Faces of Independent Film
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• Philadelphia Inquirer, Nick Vadala, November 30, 2017
10 years in the making, North Philly-focused 'Quest' brings connection, community to the big screen
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• Vogue, Rebecca Bengal, December 1, 2017
With Quest, a Documentary Disrupts American Narratives About Race
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• Vice, Seth Ferranti, December 7, 2017
A Stunning New Film Documents a Decade in the Life of One Family
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• International Documentary Association, Lauren Wissot, December 19, 2017
Doc Stars of the Month: Christopher 'Quest' and Christine'a 'Ma Quest' Rainey, Jonathan Olshefski's 'Quest'

• Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Maria Sciullo, January 4, 2018
Turtle Creek native brings acclaimed documentary 'Quest' to Pittsburgh Filmmakers
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• The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold, April 19, 2019
God, Guns, and Country: The Evangelical Fight Over Firearms
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Winner Laurels


Official Nominee: Best Documentary | 2019 News and Documentary Emmys

Official Nominee: Outstanding Social Issue Documentary | 2019 News and Documentary Emmys

Official Nominee: 2019 Peabody Awards

Winner: Truer Than Fiction Award | 2018 Independent Spirit Awards

Official Nominee: Best Documentary | 2018 Independent Spirit Awards

Winner: Outstanding Achievement in Editing | 2018 Cinema Eye Honors

Official Nominee: Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking | 2018 Cinema Eye Honors

Official Nominee: Audience Choice Prize | 2018 Cinema Eye Honors

Winner: Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award | 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Winner: Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights | 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Winner: Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary | 2017 Dallas International Film Festival

Winner: Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary | 2017 RiverRun International Film Festival

Winner: Les Blank Award: Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary | 2017 Ashland Independent Film Festival

Winner: People's Voice Award | 2017 Fist Up Film Festival

Winner: Audience Award | 2017 Camden International Film Festival

Winner: Best Documentary Feature | 2017 Baltimore International Black Film Festival

Winner: Best U.S. Documentary | 2017 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Winner: Documentary Jury Award | 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival

Winner: Silver Gateway Award for Second Best Film | 2017 Mumbai Film Festival

Winner: Critic's Choice Award | 2017 Key West Film Festival

Honorable Mention: Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Documentary | 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival

Honorable Mention: Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Documentary | 2017 Nashville Film Festival

Official Selection Laurels


Select Festivals List:

• Sundance Film Festival, January 19 – 29, 2017

• True/False Film Festival, March 2 – 5, 2017

• New Directors/New Films, March 16 – 27, 2017

• Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 6 – 9, 2017

• Cleveland International Film Festival, March 29 – April 9, 2017

• Ashland Independent Film Festival, April 6 – 10, 2017

• Dallas International Film Festival, March 30 – April 9, 2017

• RiverRun International Film Festival, March 30 – April 9, 2017

• Hot Docs, Toronto Canada, April 27 – May 7, 2017

• Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sheffield England, June 9 – 14, 2017

• AFI Docs, Washington DC, June 14 – 18, 2017

• Nantucket Film Festival, June 21 – 26, 2017

• Traverse City Film Festival, Traverse City MI, July 26 – 27, 2017

• Camden International Film Festival, Camden Maine, September 14 – 17, 2017

• Mumbai Film Festival, Mumbai India, October 12 - 18, 2017

View complete screenings list here


Jonathan Olshefski (Director)

Jonathan Olshefski is an artist and documentary filmmaker.

His debut feature documentary, QUEST was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmys in 2019. The film premiered in competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and went on to screen at over 75 festivals nationally and internationally.

In 2017 he was named as one of 25 New Faces in Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine and mentioned in the New York Times as one of “The 9 New Directors You Need to Watch.” In 2018 he received the “Truer Than Fiction Award” at the Independent Spirit Awards and was selected for a Pew Artist Fellowship.

Olshefski strives to tell intimate and nuanced stories that honor his subjects’ complexity by employing a production process that emphasizes collaboration, dialogue, and relationship in order to amplify their voices and reflect their points of view in an artful way.

He has an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and is an Associate Professor at Rowan University where he teaches in the department of Radio, TV, and Film. He lives in Philadelphia with his two sons.

You can view his portfolio here:


Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (Producer)

Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her editing debut won an Emmy for WGBH’s “Greater Boston Arts” series and she has continued to distinguish herself as a producer, editor, and now, director. She is the Co-Director/Producer and Editor of BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, winner of Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color at the 2015 African Diaspora International Film Festival. Sabrina is also the Co-Producer and Editor of DOCUMENTED, the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning undocumented journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. The film had record viewership for its CNN broadcast, received Oscar buzz, and was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Best Documentary Film. Other credits include Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was named in the Chicago Tribune’s “Best Documentaries of 2007, The New Black, and The New Mad Men, which won the 2015 Imagen Award for Best National Informational Program. Sabrina is on the board of the Yale Visual Law Project with Fred Wiseman and Alex Gibney, and teaches documentary filmmaking at the Columbia University School of Journalism and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Lindsay Utz (Editor)


Lindsay Utz is an award-winning documentary film editor. Her film, American Factory (dir. Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert) premiered at Sundance in 2019 and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2020. Prior to this film, she edited QUEST (dir. Jonathan Olshefski), a longitudinal portrait of a family from North Philadelphia, ten years in the making. QUEST premiered at Sundance in 2017 to wide critical acclaim and the film went on to win top prizes at multiple prestigious festivals. In 2018 Lindsay won the Cinema Eye Honors award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing for her work on the film. QUEST had its television broadcast as the opening film for POV's 2018 summer season. Her other credits include the Oscar-shortlisted Bully (Tribeca FF 2011), First Position (TIFF 2011), Buoy (Ashland FF 2013), In Country (Full Frame 2014), two Emmy-nominated FRONTLINE episodes (PBS 2015/2016) and multiple shorts for the New York Times. In 2012 Utz was awarded the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship, named in honor of Errol Morris's late editor. She teaches Advanced Documentary Editing as a part of Northwestern University's MFA in Documentary Media program and is currently serving as an advisor to the selection committee for the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. 

Christopher "Quest" Rainey
(Original Music)

I've been into music since the 80's from breakdancing to beatboxing. Over the years I watched hip hop change  in to many different avenues hard core, new jack. chanting, and many others. But all still to be under one main title: RAP!

I created Everquest Recordings as a way to help the teens in my area. But it grew into something more, a family. My name is Chris but friends over the years gave me different titles according to how we met. I guess they all settled on "Quest" (named after the studio). Through music I met David Barnes. A staple on 96.1 & 900am WURD’s "The New World View" radio program. Every Sunday evening 6pm - 8pm. also became a cohost on that program. I directed a video shoot starring Pep Shooter co-starring Meek Mill called Daily on the Block. I’ve been doing studio recordings for people for almost 20 years with local celebrities like Ron Geez, D Mack Kings, and our very own 23P. I'm probably the oldest studio fixture in my area with tons of music just waiting to be heard from past and present artists!


Everquest Recordings:
Freestyle Friday venues weekly since 2012!

T. Griffin (Original Score)

T. Griffin has composed scores for over 40 feature length films, and dozens of live and multimedia projects. Notable titles include the Academy-Award nominated LIFE, ANIMATED and multiple festival award winners QUEST, THE OVERNIGHTERS, and WELCOME TO LEITH as well as the recently Oscar Shortlisted ONE OF US. He has composed and performed live film/music events with filmmakers including Sam Green, Jem Cohen, Brent Green and Esther Robinson. These shows have toured internationally and been presented by The Barbican, BAM Next Wave, The Walker Art Center, The Melt Down Festival, Big Ears Festival, and dozens of other festivals and museums. Besides his work as a film composer and solo artist he has worked as a player and/or producer with luminaries of the independent music world including Patti Smith, Vic Chesnutt, Mary Margaret O'Hara and members of The Ex, Dirty Three, Fugazi and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. He was a fellow at the Sundance Composers' Lab in 2008, and has twice been nominated for Cinema Eye Honors for Original Music Score. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Ellen Knechel (Assistant Editor)

Ellen is an independent filmmaker and editor based in NYC. She is currently editing the feature documentary, Border South (Dir. Raúl Paz Pastrana). Ellen was recently selected as a mentee in the 2018 class of the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship’s Diversity in the Edit Room Program. She participated at the 2017 Camden/TFI Filmmaker Retreat, the 2017 DocsMX Docs Labs in Mexico City, and she is a Flaherty Film Seminar alumnus. She holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University.

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