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Filmmaker Interview: Invitation To Dance
updated: Feb 02, 2014, 11:00 AM

By the Dedicated Staff of edhat.com

An interview with filmmakers Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch

Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch

Simi Linton (Writer, Director, and Producer) is a writer, teacher, and activist. She is the author of "Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity, a memoir," "My Body Politic," and numerous articles on disability. Her memoir offers insights into the life of one living with a disability, and also discusses the issues and politics surrounding disability in modern society.

Christian von Tippelskirch (Director/Producer) is a film maker who has worked domestically and internationally for over 25 years with many major studios and networks.

Invitation to Dance is both the story of Simi Linton and a discussion of the surrounding issues of equity for people with disabilities. The story is told with humor, humanity and dance. I met with Simi and Christian during the film festival to discuss their movie and asked how the movie came to be.

During the course of lecturing and public speaking on her memoir, Simi found the Power Point slides she was using for her presentations to be somewhat inadequate. It occurred to her on many occasions that film would be a great medium for her message; but she wasn't a film maker. Enter Christian. The two have known one another for many years, most commonly connecting over an appreciation of cinema during the annual New York Film Festival. After reading Simi's memoir several years ago, Christian approached her, suggesting it would make a fascinating documentary. And so began the journey to make Invitation to Dance.

Christian says he was drawn to the story, both as a filmmaker and from the perspective of personal experience with the disabling illness of his father. Simi pointed out that most people are touched by the issue; either personally, or through a friend or loved one. But Christian saw Simi's story as one of activism; not just disability, and one that needed to be told.

The film is presented in loosely formed chapters, separated by segments of dance, featuring the Axis Dance Company of Oakland, California. Simi calls the film a coming out story for disabled people who have lived within the boundaries of ingrained prejudices for centuries ; in the education system, in the workforce, on the bus, in the depictions of disability in cinema and, importantly, on the dance floor. If one is to view dance as a symbol of freedom and expression, the dance in the film represents the opening of those boundaries.

Invitation to Dance was a project that took seven years to complete. When asked about the challenges, the first answer was funding; probably every filmmakers' foremost challenge. Beyond that, Simi pointed to the challenge of getting the point across. She explained that she had firm ideas what she thought the film should say. Throughout the seven year process, Simi and Christian reshaped the film over and over. But in the end, they both agreed that the time period involved in making the film was advantageous, in that it allowed the evolution of perspective and progress to be shown.

When I asked if they liked the finished product, I was met with a resounding, "Yes!" Simi said she laughed and cried while watching it for the first time in the theatre, and Christian, who never re-watches his films once they are complete, says he could watch it over and over again.

Christian and Simi are hoping for wide distribution of the film. They call it a film for communities.

- S.Foley

Invitation to Dance is premiering in Santa Barbara on Sunday evening at 7:00 the Lobero Theatre It is a nominee for the Social Justice Award for documentary film in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Next stop: Reel Abilities Film Festival in NYC in March

Alice Sheppard on the red carpet.

Simi Linton and dancer Alice Sheppard on the red carpet.

Simi Linton and dancer Alice Sheppard at the Opening Night Gala


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