Jonathan Olshefski is an artist and documentary filmmaker.
His debut feature documentary, QUEST was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmys in 2019. The film premiered in competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and went on to screen at over 75 festivals nationally and internationally.
In 2017 he was named as one of 25 New Faces in Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine and mentioned in the New York Times as one of “The 9 New Directors You Need to Watch.” In 2018 he received the “Truer Than Fiction Award” at the Independent Spirit Awards and was selected for a Pew Artist Fellowship.
Olshefski strives to tell intimate and nuanced stories that honor his protagonists’ complexity by employing a production process that emphasizes collaboration, dialogue, and relationship in order to amplify their voices and reflect their points of view in an artful way.
He has an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and is an Associate Professor at Rowan University where he teaches in the department of Radio, TV, and Film. He lives in Philadelphia with his two sons.
13 Years in the Life of a Lakota Family
Feature Length Documentary (13 years in the making)
World Premiere: Big Sky Documentary Festival 2024: Best Feature Competition
Big Sky profile page: https://www.bigskyfilmfest.org/festival/films-2024-view/without_arrows/
Filmed over the course of thirteen years (2011-2023), WITHOUT ARROWS chronicles the vibrance and struggle of a Lakȟóta family.
Delwin Fiddler Jr., a champion grass dancer from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, left his reservation as a young man to escape a trauma that splintered his family and built a new life in Philadelphia. A decade later he abandons it all and returns home to fulfill his mother’s ambition and carry on the legacy of their thiyóšpaye (extended family).
A Portrait of an American Family
Feature Length Documentary (10 years in the making)
World Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2017: Documentary Feature Competition
Sundance Profile Page – http://www.sundance.org/projects/quest
Filmed with vérité intimacy for almost a decade, QUEST is the moving portrait of an African-American family in North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, Christopher “Quest” Rainey, and his wife Christine’a “Ma Quest” Rainey navigate the strife that sometimes grips their “North Philly” neighborhood as they raise a family and cultivate a creative sanctuary for the community in their home music studio. Epic in scope, QUEST is a vivid illumination of race and class in America, and a testament to love, healing and hope.
• Gallery Show / Screening Event – pilot for engagement campaign 10/7/2016 – Circle of Hope Gallery – Philadelphia
Punk Rock Mommy
Photo/Transmedia Exhibit, Interactive Website, Animation Installation
Book is forthcoming – seeking publishing partner
Punk Rock Mommy is the story of Andrea Collins-Smith, mother of six, and a good friend. I documented her experience as she fought terminal cancer while she reflected on her life by writing a blog that eventually went viral and culminated in over 600,000 views.
I miss Andrea dearly. Her persistence in compellingly sharing her story through good days and bad days as a means of connecting to others demonstrates the power of narrative to create community. Her choice to collaborate with me throughout her journey was an incredible honor and is what gave me the confidence to pursue everything that I have done since.
These media artifacts include: four different interactive websites, a collection of still photographs hand-printed in a darkroom, three videos, an interactive installation, a booklet/zine, a solo gallery show, and a book that is currently in progress.
• Punk Rock Mommy: Blog – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/blog/
• Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/punkrockmommy
• Punk Rock Mommy: Memories V.1 – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/memories/
• Punk Rock Mommy: Memories V.2 – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/memories/PunkRockMommyIdeas.html
• Punk Rock Mommy: Ephemeral – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/ephemeral/
• Punk Rock Mommy: Swindle – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/swindle/
• Gallery Show Website – http://olshefski.org/punkrockmommy/fn/
• Video from gallery show: https://vimeo.com/78958331
• Punk Rock Mommy article 5/8/2014 : Philadelphia City Paper
• Punk Rock Mommy article 6/18/2014 – Main Course Philly
Depaul USA: We Believe in You
Completed: February 2014
A recovering heroin addict comes to Depaul House after being released from prison in order to seek a better life. Depaul USA is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and job training for homeless men in Philadelphia.
I was an artist in residence at Depaul when this film was made. I have served on Depaul USA’s Local Advisory Council from 2014 – 2018.
• Won an Award of Excellence in promotional video category at the Broadcast Education Association Conference, Festival of Media Arts: Faculty Competition in February 2015.
The Closer Project
Closer: A Journey with Charles is a multi-format, multi-year (2008 – 2013) transmedia documentary project. It seeks to provoke introspection about one’s proximity to marginalized individuals and to question assumptions about people from these communities while creating a complex portrait of a man named Charles as he transitions out of homelessness.
Closer: A Moment with Charles
Interactive installation: a metaphor for daily erasures that renders certain members of our society invisible.
Documentation website: http://whispersinthestorm.com/installation/
• Won “Best in Show” at the International Digital Media Arts Association national conference in November 2012.
reClose: A Journey with Charles
This chapter conveys Charles’ transition from the streets to housing.
• Received “Honorable Mention” at the International Digital Media Arts Association national conference in November 2013.
Website – http://whispersinthestorm.com/reclose/
Documentary – 32 minutes / Photo Essay
The Scrapper follows the nightly routine of Joe, one of Philadelphia’s scrappers. Scrapping is a way of life in many urban areas where a tremendous amount of wealth is simply thrown into the trash.
After the sun sets Joe traverses the urban landscape in search of treasure. The film sheds light on a hidden, yet pervasive, activity through a man who desires to be respected for doing the activity that he loves. As the secrets of his shadowy activities become revealed so do the details of his surprising past.
• Premiered at the 2008 Chicago Underground Film Festival
• Broadcast run on MiND TV in 2011 – 2016
Whispers in the Storm
A series of photo essays captured in North Philadelphia between 2005 and 2007.
Whispers in the Storm pairs photos essays with audio interviews to tell of stories hope and hardship in North Philadelphia.
Memoir: The Oral History
Interactive Narrative – Flash
As a non-linear, interactive experience Memoir: The Oral History provides fragments of narrative that the participant must piece together in order to reveal a treatise on memory, violence, and who gets labelled “the bad guy” in our society.