Olshefski’s Quest to premiere at Sundance

Olshefski’s Quest to premiere at Sundance


Quest, professor Jonathan Olshefski’s cinema verite´ portrayal of a North Philadelphia family, will make its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in January.

A decade in the making, Quest tells the story of Christopher “Quest” Rainey, who, along with his wife Christine’a, “Ma Quest” Rainey, run a home music studio that serves as a creative sanctuary amidst the strife of their neighborhood.

Promotional materials describe a story about family life at the margins of the American dream: “Over the years, the family evolves as everyday life brings a mix of joy and unexpected crisis. Set against the backdrop of a country now in turmoil, QUEST is a tender depiction of an American family whose journey is a profound testament to love, healing and hope.”

Olshefski, an associate professor in the Department of Radio, Television & Film, said his film’s acceptance at Sundance speaks both to the quality of the work and the essence of the story.

The Sundance Institute, which runs one of the best known and most respected film festivals in the world, announced entries Nov. 30 and Olshefski’s was one of just 113 films of nearly 14,000 submissions chosen to premiere during the festival in Utah.

“Acceptance to Sundance is incredibly encouraging, and just sort of validates how important this story is and how important this family is,” Olshefski said.

The largest independent film festival in the United States, Sundance has helped launch the careers of such notable filmmakers as Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky and Jim Jarmusch.

Olshefski’s film is among 16 feature-length productions to be entered in the U.S. Documentary Competition.

The final film is still in the edit phase and will likely premiere between 90 and 100 minutes, Olshefski said.

Though huge, Quest’s acceptance at Sundance is not the film’s first sign of big things to come. In 2016 Olshefski won a $100,000 MacArthur Foundation Documentary Film Grant to help him complete the project and he won a post-production grant through The Independent Television Service, which funds, presents, and promotes documentaries and dramas on public television – essentially a fast track for PBS.

The developing film also won a prestigious Garrett Scott Documentary Development grant that enabled Olshefski to showcase it at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina.

Still, Olshefski said, having the world premiere at Sundance is “an amazing opportunity to launch on a large scale. This is a story that people need to see. Hopefully, our appearance at Sundance will get this story before a larger audience than we’d otherwise be able to.”

Rowan lessons

Olshefski, who teaches students that making it in the film world often involves struggle and unflagging commitment, hopes to take a lucky few with him to Sundance, along with himself and the Raineys, where they’ll help document the experience.

Meanwhile, he said, with about seven weeks until his world premiere on one of the world’s greatest stages, he’s focused on fine-tuning the best story he can tell.

“This story has a message of love and hope and understanding,” he said. “Right now ours is a fractured society and I think this is a story that we need.”

For more information about the festival, and to see what films Olshefski’s will be in competition with, visit the Sundance site.

To learn more about the film, visit the Quest site.