Filmed over a decade and charting a North Philadelphia Family as they struggle to make ends meet and survive, while trying to raise their family and help their community.  Christopher Rainey and his Wife Christine’a, known as Quest and Ma Quest, have a small recording studio for community rappers with dreams of making it big.  The Documentary was meant to chart their trying to make their community better through giving people a different focus, but in the middle a violent tragedy occurs which pushes their family to the breaking point.

I would have loved to give this film a higher mark, it’s very moving and very involving, and those things are created by the violent act which affects The Rainey’s half way through the documentary.  This changes the direction, rightly so, of the film and it also just creates that lack of balance that leads you, as the viewer, to lose focus.  I want to make it clear right from the start that this is an important documentary for everyone to watch.  No matter what I say, you should watch this film.

The reason is that it shows that one of the richest nations on the planet treating the poorest members of its society like trash.  Politicians show up when a violent event happens and make sound bites, then disappear, back into the ether like ghosts until they need the votes again.  The Rainey’s are true inspirations to their communities and you cannot help but admire them.  My complaints are based on the structuring of the documentary not about the stories.  From showing the rappers that are using this small intimate space to create a way into the music industry, to their family life, which gets hit with an inspiring cancer fight of a 21-year-old man, to the event that will change their lives forever.

Their 13-year-old daughter PJ goes through a severe injury by being an innocent bystander just walking home, and it breaks your heart watching what this baby goes through, you think of your young family members and if they had to go through it.  The aftermath of her attack leaves her a changed child and the family show a massive amount of heart and how strong they really are.  This is a family who are no strangers to drama and instead of crumbling around them have come through the furnace stronger and more together than ever.  To be honest their family relationship made me envious of them.  I have little in life and my family and I are not close, but these people have even less than I do, but have a bond that cannot be measured in gold.  It’s truly beautiful.

Filmed over a long period which is shown in the Presidential Elections that they pay attention to, which is a nice touch, I can’t help but feel there could have been two documentaries taken out of the footage.  One of the Daughter and her struggles post the incident, showing the violence of the inner city areas that we try to keep out of our minds, her admission to her parents about her life, and that unbeatable spirit that she shows which could inspire her generation.  The second was meant to be the focus of the community recording studio and the artists that Christopher works with, some new and some old.  If the film had been split into parts 1 and 2, and it might have been tough for the film makers, but it would have created the deeper world that we want more of.  As it is the film felt very mixed in pace and unsettling but not in the story manner.  You should watch this film, it’s important that you do, but the pacing and editing may leave you feeling that you’re being cheated out of the more complete story of one of America’s most inspiring families.

Director: Jonathan Olshefski
Producer: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon


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