One afternoon during one of the two days of shooting in Hamburg, Germany, we were filming the Ahrens family walking home. They live in a new housing development in the Jenfelder Au district.
Apartments in this complex, which will eventually house about 2,000 residents, are built with vacuum toilets that send the poop and pee to an anaerobic composter which turns the excreta into methane gas, for heating and cooking, and fertiliser to grow plants and trees. It is a technology that has also been adopted in Sweden, the Netherlands and other green-conscious countries. It reduces environmental pollution, water use, and mitigates climate change. We hope more of these are built in the future all over the world.
So where is the coincidence, if there is one at all?
As we followed the Ahrens family, the sound recordist Ralf Weber asked me to stop so he could place a radio microphone on each of the three family members. This allows the audience to hear them as they walk far from the camera. We stopped on Wilsonstraße (Wilson Street), as you can see in the still below, captured from the video shot by director of photography Hajo Schomerus.
As we wait, I receive a text message from Petra, who is in Zürich, Switzerland, writing: “You are right now near where I used to live as a child!” She knew because our mobile phones share an app that allows us to know each other’s location at any given time. Since I was busy and focused on the shooting I did not properly absorb the message.
Later, after we had finished shooting, we returned to the hotel, and I had time to digest her message. While Petra has lived in Switzerland since the late 1960s, she was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She lived with her parents and grandparents on Wilsonstraße, in the Tonndorf neighbourhood which is contiguous to Jenfelder Au, until the age of 6.
Lo and behold, she sent me this photo of her holding a doll and playing with a dog owned by the man on the left. It is likely that her father snapped the picture. The photo was taken on Wilsonstraße and Tonndorfer Hauptstraße, about a kilometre or little over half a mile away from where we stopped with the Ahrens family.
What are the chances of me coming to Europe from Puerto Rico, and shooting a film just steps away from where Petra was born?
What do you think?
Coincidence, destiny, or just a regular day at the office?