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Filmmakers Christian von Tippelskirch and Simi Linton, and an Invitation to Dance

We had known each other for a long time, and usually saw each other once a year at the opening night of the NY Film Festival. On one of those evenings, Christian approached Simi in the garden of Tavern on the Green to say that he had read her memoir, My Body Politic. “In fact,” he said, “I am in the process of re-reading it, this time backwards.”

Amused, Simi asked why.

“Because I think it would make a good film.”

That was seven years ago, and today we are poised to present the world premiere of our film INVITATION TO DANCE at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

We originally planned to make a narrative feature, but it soon became apparent that the real people in Simi’s world offered richer and more interesting possibilities. Thus, the documentary INVITATION TO DANCE was born.
We are partners in this project; both of us are listed as directors and producers. “Even in our early conversations,” Simi recalls, “I saw that Christian understood at a deep level what disability justice and injustice were all about. I trusted him with my story.”

Simi is a major player in disability circles. She has written two books, and seems to know every disabled person who ever lived. Simi’s memoir and her look at disabil- ity promised a new perspective on my own history: My father had MPS II (Hunter Syndrome), a life long disability, and, as a twelve-year old, I barely survived a car accident in which he was killed. Simi opened a new universe for me on how to live, speak, and fight for rights in the face of disability.”

We started filming at a major antiwar demonstration in New York City. Simi was marching with a group from the activist organization, “Disabled in Action.” At this time we didn’t know how to define our partnership or how to tell Simi’s story. We just started.

“Whether we were filming at a demonstration or at a dance party,” Simi remem- bers, “Christian embraced the disabled people in my community with great gusto and appreciation, and they quickly took to him.” Christian recalls: “Seeing Simi and her comrades in action was so powerful. Their fight for basic human rights for all people is common ground. But it was when I saw them on the dance floor I knew we had a movie.”

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Though we had an outpouring of support – grants, encouragement from colleagues in disability areas and from film industry professionals, and a fantastic crowdfunding campaign, it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, we were able to finish the film by working non-stop, putting in our own resources, and assembling a team that shared our wonder at what the film INVITATION TO DANCE had become.

We offer to you our INVITATION TO DANCE.

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