Set in the world of Russian immigrants living in New York City, "Downtown Express" uses music to explore the clash of old world values against the lure and excitement of a new country. Under the watch of his loving but overbearing father, virtuoso violinist and Juilliard student Sasha (Grammy nominee Philippe Quint) prepares for a critical recital meant to launch his career. Yet, he is increasingly drawn to the rhythms of the streets of New York, and when he meets singer-songwriter Ramona (acclaimed recording artist Nellie McKay), he joins her band, falls in love, and begins to lead a double life, careening frantically between two worlds. As his classical debut nears, Sasha must decide whether to break with his father and forge his own destiny.
Quint’s role in "Downtown Express" marks the first time that a classical musician has been featured as the lead in an American independent film. 'I was instantly swept away by this story because it mirrored my life in so many ways,' says the Russian-born Quint, who defected to the U.S. as a teenager, in part to avoid army service in Russia, in part to study with The Juilliard School’s renowned teacher Dorothy DeLay and take instruction from such luminaries as Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman.