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Paraíso: Immigrant Window Cleaners at Work in Chicago

The Op-Doc Paraíso (Paradise) reveals the beauty and danger of three immigrant window cleaners' work on Chicago's skyscrapers.


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"I first got the idea for this film (whose title, Paraíso, is the Spanish word for Paradise) when I was living in Chicago working as a film editor," Nadav Kurtz writes.

"One morning, as I sat at my desk in a high-rise downtown, a man dropped down inches from my window, cleaned it, and disappeared to the next floor. This momentary interaction seemed a perfect metaphor for life in many multiethnic American cities where the work of immigrants often goes unnoticed. I hoped to find out more about what motivated these men to spend their working days dangling hundreds of feet in the air."

"Soon after I began filming, I met two brothers, Sergio Polanco and Jaime Polanco, and their cousin, Cruz Guzman.

"The Polanco brothers came to the United States from García de la Cadena, a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, and the birthplace of a surprisingly large number of Chicago's window washers and their families.

"The brothers and Mr. Guzman are employed by Corporate Cleaning Services, a well-established Chicago window cleaning company that, according to its president, Neal Zucker, requires all of its employees to be in compliance with federal and state guidelines governing employment eligibility.

"Window washers at this company receive health and life insurance benefits through membership in a union, SEIU Local 1, and can typically earn anywhere between $45,000 and $65,000 a year, depending on their skill level and speed."

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See also:

* Corporate Cleaning Services.

* Neal Zucker.

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"Much of Paraíso takes place atop the concrete canopy of Chicago's downtown," Daniel James Scott writes in his Q&A with the director in Filmmaker magazine.

"Kurtz treats us to beautiful images of the men considering their horizons beyond and below. While remaining interested in their work as work, Kurtz pursues the subject more as a means of exploring the complex race dynamics of Chicago, immigration in the U.S., and the parallel lives people lead as they arrive from different circumstances."

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See also: The Flickr photostream of Sky Ninja Michael Kelly, a Chicago window washer and friend of the filmmaker.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on September 11, 2013


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