Editor Nadav Kurtz wins top Ad Shorts prize at MWFF

Scene from Kurtz’ “Paraiso” doc

Tuesday night’s Annual Ad Community Shorts program of 14 films vividly displayed the high quality and imagination of filmmakers who work in various capacities in agencies and production houses. 

The 14 programmed films were so compelling, so good within their genres that the jury must’ve tossed coins to slot their final choices into traditional first-second-third places.

More than 200 submissions were received by the Midwest Independent Film Festival, annual sponsor in partnership with the AICP/Midwest.  Program participants selected by the agency-heavy jury of 22 were mainly Chicago filmmakers.  Two out of the 14 were Missouri-made.

The audience at the sold-out Landmark Century theatre watched a nicely-paced 90-minute program consisting of four strong documentaries, four short comedies, including a John Malkovich grotesquerie, three inventive music videos, a clever character portrayal, a short compilation from 8mm films and a longer dramatic, “West Side Story/Grease”-like music video.

Top three Ad Community Shorts winners

Editor/director Nadav Kurtz, who edits for Cutters, scored the top prize for his 10-minute doc, “Paraiso,” about three immigrant Mexican window cleaners who risk their lives every day rappelling down some of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers.

Andrew Wehde was the cinematographer of fresh, breathtaking cityscape views and San Francisco-based, Spanish-speaking freelance editor Tony Gannon helped Kurtz with the editing, since the narrative was in Spanish.

Released last year, “Paraiso” was a big hit, winning Best Documentary Short at the 2012 Tribeca and Seattle International Film Festivals and was short-listed for an Academy Award.  This year so far, it’s played at Sundance and New York’s Cinema Eye doc competition.

Kurtz has been editing for Cutters since 2007, with time off to cut features and produce his own projects.

Second prize went to “The Ghost,” (the aforementioned “West Side Story” riff) directed by Eddie O’Keefe and produced by Matthew Mandarino of newcomer agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul.

Kathy, a sheltered and sensitive teenage girl comes of age when her small sleepy suburb is turned upside down with the mysterious appearance of The Ghosts, a hell-bent greaser gang that emerges from a trash pile in a junk yard at the outskirts of town, and have to face off with their opposite number, The Protectors.

Eugene placed third, a moving documentary directed by Jason Stanfield and Jordan Olshansky of True Stories, San Francisco and edited by Steven Sachs of Chicago-based Company 3. 

The doc is about a gentle, homeless panhandler who lives nearby in his campsite with his cat Trouble, in The Presidio recreational park of San Francisco, his good cheer masking a painful and damning secret about his past.

Coming up Dec. 3 is the Best of the Midwest Awards, at the Landmark Century Cinemas. MWFF screenings are held the first Tuesdays of every month of the year, except January.