| "Paraíso" filmmaker Nadav Kurtz talks "Hoop Dreams," kinship between filmmakers and appreciating the people who better our lives outside of our view.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
The camaraderie of other filmmakers who are making projects they really believe in. It's inspiring to see the dedication and love that goes into projects when the reward has more to do with engaging in meaningful questions and issues rather than a financial one.
Which filmmakers inspired you to get behind the lens?
I saw Steve James' "Hoop Dreams" when I was in high school and realized that documentaries could be full stories with dramatic arcs that could rival, if not surpass, many narrative films. I was also obsessed with [Werner] Herzog for a number of years, which seems like a rite of passage. And at the risk of being a bit dorky, [Sergei] Eisenstein as well because the idea of film having its own syntax was quite mind-blowing and exciting for me and fueled a lot of interest in editing and montage.
Could you list three films that all independent film supporters should take the time to see?
I think "The Act of Killing" deserves every ounce of acclaim it is currently receiving and is so imaginative, humane and socially important which all docs, or perhaps all films, ought to aspire to be. [John] Cassevetes' films, because he was a pioneer in many aspects of independent film-making, including such less glamorous aspects as self-financing and distribution, etc. And "American Movie" for a little humorous take on what can take place behind the scenes.
What do you hope the audience comes away with after seeing your film?
I hope they walk away a bit inspired and with a greater appreciation for the people who often work invisibly to make our lives better and the views out of our windows clearer.
Was there a particular scene in Paraíso that you remember as dangerous or difficult to film?
Filming the early morning opening scene (in which the window cleaners rappel down the side of the building and begin their work) was tricky. It was really difficult getting permission to shoot from the rooftop of the adjacent building and once we were finally able to get up there, we kept having to cancel because of high winds. We'd be set up at 5am and then I'd have to tell everyone to come back the next day. In the end, though, we captured some of the best shots one of those mornings.
What did you find the most compelling about the subjects of the film?
I was curious about their spiritual beliefs and how they thought about their own mortality and whether their line of work gave them a different perspective about the meaning of their lives.
Would you revisit the rooftops to shoot another film?
I love going to locations that are difficult to access and capturing unusual points of view, which was something I thought a lot about when we chose our locations for "Paraíso." Chicago is a beautiful city and has been filmed quite a bit but I wanted the viewers to have a sense of being somewhere unfamiliar, and that they were visitors to these immigrants' world. So, to answer the question, I would revisit rooftops as well as other locations that we ordinarily don't get to visit.