Quest is a slow-moving portrait, but moving all the same, of one African-American family in troubled Philadelphia as they persevere through the years of Obama’s Presidency 

Directed by Jonathan Olshefski over a period of the eight years of Obama’s Presidency, Quest documents the lives of a low income black family in North Philadelphia as they struggle on in their journey to create and nourish hip-hop talent at the recording studio set up by father Christopher Rainey aka. ‘Quest’. Together with his wife Christine, or ‘Ma Quest’ and daughter Patricia ‘PJ’ Rainey, the family go through no shortage of bumps in their shared journey.

Olshefski’s unique success with the film is to allow you close enough to the family so as to feel a part of it. We watch as the Raineys braid each others hair, talk about their money problems and fight out teenage angst. It’s a closeness that leaves you questioning your own notions of place and assumptions of those who live in downtrodden areas like Philly. In the gun-crime ridden backstreets, almost entirely populated by black families, Quest and his family are a beacon of hope, a shining light of community leadership in a neighbourhood torn apart by violence, gangs and drugs.

Quest himself overcame addiction and a youth selling crack cocaine to become a pillar of his community as he lends his voice to a weekly radio station discussing political issues. Ma Quest works at a shelter for abused women. They are a family who persevere through the troubles that could so easily engulf their family, but at no point does it become cliched or contrived. They rightly ask why the likes of celebrity activists like Jay Z and Beyonce are hailed as heroes of the movement that seeks to help those in the position of the Rainey family, when its people like them, those on the ground that should be looked to as pioneers and examples.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC57RF68V9U

Quest is not an easy watch. The family battle all manner of problems, from sexuality to a brain tumour, gun crime and death. When PJ is shot in the eye by accident, she apologises to her father in a moment that is both heart warming and heart melting.

At 110 minutes, the pace of Quest is slow and at times lackadaisical. There’s no point, per se, no climactic build to the story, no overarching narrative as in STEP, but that’s the beauty of the documentary. It bobs along with the same pace as the lives of its protagonists, and follows their journey exactly as they live it.

Quest is a powerful portrait of everyday life for an impoverished black American family. It is a testament to the hope and sense of empowerment felt by many when President Obama was sworn in as the USA’s fist black President. As our time spent with the Raineys comes to an end, it’s clear that despite the lack of social progress made in the eight years of Obama’s office, this is a family that won’t let President Trump get in the way of hope.

Quest is on limited released in the UK on August 18th

★★★☆☆