Quest is the underdog story of a director with no filmmaking experience. Director Santiago Rizzo tells his own story of childhood abuse, addiction to graffiti, and an exceptional mentor. Through the help of his high school teacher Tim Moellering, Rizzo survived a violent step-father, attended Stanford and then worked on Wall Street – eventually saving enough money to make this film. “One year, I made almost a million dollars, but I was sleeping in a studio above an Indian restaurant”. When Moellering (to whom the film is dedicated) was diagnosed with cancer, Rizzo left everything to care for him. Rizzo held Moellering’s hand as he died. That relentless, remarkable love shines through, leaving a triumphant altar in Moellering’s memory.
“That relentless, remarkable love shines through, leaving a triumphant altar…”
Gregory Kasyan plays Rizzo, a precocious 12-year-old graffiti artist. He gets on the bus, casually hits a window with a bar of soap, and moves to the back. A couple other kids get on, admire the tag, and get caught adding their own. In his own game, Rizzo is way ahead of the pack, but at home, he’s getting nothing but setbacks. Lou Diamond plays a convincingly abusive step-father, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Selma) plays an older friend that gets murdered, and Dash Mihok plays Tim Moellering – the man who has a baseball field named after him in Berkeley, CA.
Growing up in Oakland, I basically grew up in Berkeley too. My friends and I smoked weed in that same spot under the BART tracks, I shot a music video on those same train tracks, the UC-Berkeley football stadium was a staple of my childhood (no Top Dog scene though?). Rizzo even shows love to the godfather of hyphy – as every bay movie should. “You heard that new Mac Dre?”
“…made it on Rizzo’s life savings and still had to cut corners at every turn…”
This film is the muscle of a single man. It has it’s plot holes, it’s unnatural “whatever”s, some clunky dialogue (“O fuck, my mom put muenster cheese on my sandwich!”), a corny Rocky scene. They made it on Rizzo’s life savings and still had to cut corners at every turn to make it happen. But it’s a real, profound expression of love, and if you can recognize that tenacious spirit, it’s really something to appreciate.
Quest (2018) Directed by Santiago Rizzo, Written by Santiago Rizzo and Darren Anderson, Starring Gregory Kasyan, Lakeith Stanfield, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dash Mihok, Betsy Brandt, Quest played as part of the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival.
6 out of 10 Oscars