German filmmaker Beate Kunath aimed her camera at a bus idling at the Metro Transit Center.
You can tell a lot about a community just by studying the people riding public transportation, she says. Well, she quickly adds, it’s a little tougher in Akron because so many people forgo the bus and drive cars.
Kunath was in the city last week filming scenes and doing an interview for an upcoming documentary that focuses on women living in different countries. The common thread is that they all share her birthday — Sept. 18, 1967 — and live in one of the 12 sister cities of Chemnitz, Germany.
Chemnitz and Akron celebrate their 15th sister city anniversary this year.
Kunath — whose film has the working title “born September 18, 1967” — hopes to explore what women care about and even what they hate, showcasing the similarities and differences in their attitudes and surroundings. So far, she has found a common theme.
“It’s about having a family, I think,” she said in a slight German accent. “Being in a family and not being alone.”
The women also are striving for security in their work life. Many are divorced. Some are single mothers.
While in Akron, she sat down with Karla McDay, who supervises an independent living program at Summit County Children Services.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of something incredible,” said McDay, of Akron.
She shared her enthusiasm for helping young people and the importance of religion in her life. Kunath even accompanied her to a service at Second Baptist Church on Sunday.
McDay told the filmmaker that her desire to help young people stemmed from leaving for the University of Cincinnati after high school and feeling bewildered by her sudden independence.
“A lot of times parents and others think when people reach the age of 18 that they have skills to enter into adulthood,” she said. “I told her about my passion for helping young people during that stretch of life in particular.”
Asked to describe Akron, Kunath points to the fact that few people visit downtown.
“It feels empty,” she said.
It’s a similar feeling in her hometown of Chemnitz, which once had a much larger population, just like Akron, but has struggled with unemployment since the reunification of Germany.
She and her sound engineer Marlen Pelny — who stayed with Summit County Councilwoman Sandra Kurt while in town — were thrilled to stumble upon a recent Akron Aeros game and see life downtown.
After Akron — her farthest trip for the film — she’s headed to Volgograd, Russia. Her travels also have taken her to or will take her to Tampere, Finland; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Arras, France; Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic; Lód´, Poland; Mulhouse, France; Düsseldorf, Germany; and Taiyuan, China.
She also hopes to visit Manchester, England, but has been unsuccessful in tracking down any women who share her birthday; and Timbuktu, Mali, but is worried about civil unrest there.
Kunath plans to wrap up the film, which has the financial support of the Chemnitz government, in October and is hoping to land a distributor for the project.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.