Olshefski’s QUEST heading to PBS

Olshefski’s QUEST heading to PBS

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Director Jonathan Olshefski and members of the Rainey family from the film QUEST
Director Jonathan Olshefski and members of the Rainey family from the film QUEST

Rowan University’s Jonathan Olshefski will realize a lifelong dream when his award-winning documentary QUEST debuts this month on the long-running public television program POV.

Olshefski, an associate professor in the department of Radio, Television & Film in the College of Communication & Creative Arts, debuted his feature-length film about a struggling but triumphant African American family from North Philadelphia at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and it has gone on to win numerous accolades at film festivals around the U.S.

Though his film, shot in the vérité style over 10 years for an intimate portrait of Christopher “Quest” Rainey, his wife Christine’a and their family, has been seen by thousands of festival and theatrical viewers since its release, the PBS showing has the potential to eclipse viewership to date.

“Being able to bring QUEST and the Rainey family to people across America is so exciting,” Olshefski said. “Festivals are great but they’re sort of a niche audience. Through the broadcast on PBS we’ll be able to reach so many more people directly in their homes.”

Air times for the broadcast may vary, but in the Philadelphia region QUEST may be seen on WHYY Channel 12 at 10 p.m. June 18.

In addition to the broadcast, the film will be shown for free June 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia. While there is no charge for admission, viewers must register for a ticket through the Kimmel Center’s web site.

Olshefski said one reason for the film’s success is that he befriended Quest, Christine’a, their friends and family over the decade he was filming them and, in so doing, became almost invisible when his camera started rolling. That personal connection enabled him to capture tender, heartbreaking, impactful moments in their lives and to produce a story that is at once theirs alone and universal.

“The reality is that North Philly and places like it are dealing with a stereotype,” he said. “But people shouldn’t be defined by their struggles, they should be defined by their humanity and that was our goal from the beginning.”

In addition to the PBS broadcast on the 18th, other subsequent broadcasts (if they’re scheduled) and the Kimmel Center screening, Olshefski, his producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon and their partners hope to bring the film directly to the public through schools, houses of worship, community centers and other venues.

“We’re building curriculum around the film,” the director said. “We want it to not just be passive entertainment but a catalyst for something else. It can be a tool to have really important conversations.”

For more information, visit the movie’s web site, http://quest-documentary.com/, and check out POV's website for specials including a filmmaker interview, videos exploring issues from the film like fatherhood and community activism, a discussion guide, a lesson plan and more.