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EVERYDAY PEOPLE: JONATHAN OLSHEFSKI’S DOCUMENTARY PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN PHILADELPHIA

Jonathan Olshefski, Quest, 2017, digital video, color, sound, 105 minutes. From left: Patricia (P. J.) Rainey, Christine’a Rainey, Christopher Rainey. Production still.

“THE FILMMAKERS would like to thank the Rainey family for sharing their story.” The credit appears at the end of Jonathan Olshefski’s documentary Quest. It may be the only familiar note in a movie that is utterly unique in its choice of subject—a truly enviable family from America’s black underclass—and the way that subject is depicted. The words of thanks, which elsewhere would register as a pro forma courtesy, here invoke the very spirit that made the film possible: The Raineys’ ethos, politics, and practice of sharing their energy, skills, talents, and friendship inform every aspect of their existence, including their relationship with Olshefski and, by extension, with the audience for his film.

Some backstory, not directly referenced in the movie, about the making of Quest: In 2006, Olshefski was teaching a free photography workshop in Philadelphia. One of his students

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