The only thing sweeter than the cream puffs in Maite Alberdi’s charming film are the warm and funny interactions between middle-aged students, all of whom have Down syndrome. Many of the residents have worked in the school bakery for forty years, but the pull of adulthood, and all it represents — sex, marriage, and family — has taken hold.
In North Philadelphia, the Raineys are a regular African-American family who stay strong and loving despite ongoing adversity. Jonathan Olshefski’s powerful documentary follows Christopher and Christine’a, their teenage daughter Patricia (PJ), and Christine’a’s older son William over a ten-year period. The spectacular power of Quest comes from its complete lack of sentimentality. Its unflinching honesty reflects how the Raineys themselves are unapologetically candid, and relentlessly courageous. This is a family with a deep bond of love and faith, and this timely film has a lot to teach us.
Meet Haya (bossy and manipulative), Leanne (who positively glows, even when flinching from loud noises in the playground), and Jorj (who casually jokes about post-war stresses, but still clearly suffers). They are three Syrian refugees between the ages of six and nine, now students in a small town in the Netherlands. And in the background, often as a disembodied voice, is Miss Kiet, their teacher. She is understanding but firm, working calmly and efficiently under extremely challenging circumstances.
The title, translated as “the entrance exam,” is an in-depth and intimate look at the students looking to gain a place in La Fémis, one of the most famous and prestigious film schools in the world (Simon herself was the Head of Directing Studies). As the budding cinéastes struggle to find a place, the narrative spends a good deal of time with their interlocutors, pulling back the curtain to reveal the depth of seriousness and care that is extended to the students.