Invitation To Dance

from RocketHub:
05/08/13: Trailer with audio descriptions is here:
Welcome! We are excited to tell you about our documentary film and outreach project, INVITATION TO DANCE. We have worked longer and harder than we ever imagined, fueled by muenster cheese sandwiches and enthusiastic response from friends, film industry professionals, and activists, academics and artists from across the disability community. We’d be delighted to have you on board! Thank you.

Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch


In 1971, Simi Linton was injured while hitchhiking to Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. Suddenly a young disabled college student, she confronted insidious forms of discrimination she couldn’t have imagined before. The film follows her story as, over time, she joins forces with a vibrant disability community and realizes that love, dance and activism can once again be central to her life. Simi introduces a lusty, fun-loving, cadre of activists who defy every conceivable disability stereotype. Their lives are filled with passion, struggle and humor. Their antic and defiant demonstrations for equity range from crawling up the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building by day to irreverent partying in a hotel ballroom by night. Ultimately, INVITATION TO DANCE is a never before told coming out story of disabled people claiming their rights to “equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor!”


For too long, disabled people have lived in the shadows – denied basic rights and freedoms. While there have been significant legal advances, profound discrimination and alienation continue to mark the lives of most disabled people. Change is on the horizon. Complacency isn’t an option. Our answer? A dynamic and innovative outreach project centered on INVITATION TO DANCE. The time is ripe to present a film that invites people into this world; that charts a way forward. There are role models galore – if we follow their lead, integration is inevitable.

We have created an engaging and beautiful film that speaks to a broad range of people. INVITATION TO DANCE opens doors and minds, sparks dialogue, and generates community involvement.


Invitation to Dance is in the final stages of post-production. We are preparing to bring it to film festivals, broadcasters, colleges and universities, cultural centers, community organizations, veterans centers and more. In order to do this, we need to raise $30,000 for:

– Sound edit and final sound mix
– Color correction
– Rights to archival footage
– Full access features, including audio description and captioning
– Producing final DVD

We’ve taken the project as far as we can on our own, and now we need YOU. Please help us reach (and even surpass!) our goal of $30,000 by making a contribution. Please spread the word – take a stand with us for equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor! Together, we can do this. Use your personal networks: send word out to your circles, engage people. Let them know why the message of INVITATION TO DANCE is timely, urgent and important.

Post it, tweet it, like it, caffeinate it!

Thank you,
Simi and Christian

Invitation to Dance is a sponsored project of Artspire, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of Invitation to Dance must be made payable to Artspire and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.


Ondine starts out with a fisherman (with the oddly un-Irish name of Syracuse) who plies his trade with a small boat off the coast of Ireland. Him and his fishing boat are necessary elements to the story, because the tale starts when he pulls up a beautiful young woman wearing a bedraggled gray dress in his net. Initially thinking that she’s dead, he at first thinks of reporting his unusual catch to the authorities, but she turns out to be alive but unconscious, and she quickly revives after he gives her CPR. She makes it clear that she doesn’t want contact with anyone else, and being a fisherman in a remote area, who is lucky enough to have inherited a house from his mother near his fishing grounds, he is initially able to accommodate her wish to hide from the world.

He tells only one person about this unusual occurrence: his young daughter, who suffers from kidney failure and uses a wheelchair, had no book to pass the time during a dialysis appointment; to entertain her he tells her about the strange woman he fished from the sea, claiming that this story is a self-created fairy tale. Having just learned about the Scottish folkloric creature, the Selkie, she comes to the conclusion that this woman has to be a Selkie.

When she meets the woman and finds out that she is more than a fairytale, she starts reading up on Selkies and asking the woman questions. The woman gives her name as “Ondine” (implying that she is indeed a water spirit of some sort), and eventually acknowledges some Selkie characteristics and behavior as the movie goes on. Though the woman initially denies it, the girl and later others in the small town start seeing evidence to support the theory that she is a Selkie.

Most convincingly, when Ondine goes out on the fishing boat with Syracuse and sings, his lobster pots and trawling nets become strangely full. Her attempt to conceal something is taken to be an attempt at “burying her seal coat”, and the appearance of a strange and hostile man who wants to force her to go away with him though she wants to stay with Syracuse and is fast establishing a relationship with him is credited to the folklore concerning “the Selkie husband”. The viewer is left to wonder if she is indeed a Selkie or something similar.

While this movie does use the traditional imagery of the cute little disabled kid in the cute little wheelchair heroically enduring repeated dialysis treatments and patiently waiting for a donor kidney, and indulges in the further unreality of making the girl able to walk for some distance when her new motorized wheelchair becomes temporarily disabled after some able-bodied kids ride it into a big puddle, it is more realistic about physical disabilities and the lives of kids who have them than most other pictures involving a disabled juvenile character. This is perhaps because it is not, strictly speaking, a film about a disabled kid, but rather, a film containing a kid who happens to have some unnamed condition that involves kidney failure and the use of a wheelchair in wheelchair-unfriendly small-town Ireland. The first scene depicting the girl in a manual wheelchair shows us that her father routinely rides her straight over high curbs and cobblestones, and carries her into the car, up stairs, etc. Neither wheelchair ramps nor elevators are anywhere in evidence, those in the know are well aware that she can’t be carried like that forever. The girl somehow goes to school and to the local library, apparently others (her mother and stepfather) carry and chauffeur her as well. Nobody seems to have a van with a wheelchair lift; when Anna gets her power chair, she has to drive herself alongside her father’s car to get home. Though she has a normal pre-teen’s preoccupations, such as watching rock groups on TV and curiosity about the budding relationship between Ondine and her father, her life comes with some unusual risks built in: her stepfather looms as a menacing presence whose conduct and contact with her looks suspiciously on the verge of improper and abusive; her biological father got sober only because he realized someone had to be in order to properly fulfill parental responsibilities to her; his fall off the wagon threatens Anna as well as himself.

Ironically, it was an evening at the pub for her mother and stepfather in which both get inebriated and her mother rode in Anna’s power wheelchair which leads to the death of Anna’s stepfather in an unexpected car crash. He turns out to have a donor card and to be a perfect match for a kidney for the girl. This good luck-bad luck situation is attributed to the wish-granting power of the Selkie after the girl had asked the woman to make her better. Unlike in a lot of movies with a disabled character, the wish articulated by the little disabled girl, “make me better”, did not mean “remove the need for a wheelchair” but rather the life-threatening crisis of the kidney failure.

The true identity of “Ondine” remains a mystery until near the end of the movie when a less supernatural theory of how she came to be where and what she is comes to be revealed. We come to realize that Anna has created a bit of a fantasy for herself in order to cope with the tremendous stresses of her illness instead.

As Good As It Gets

The title of this picture, “As Good As It Gets” comes from lead character author Melvin Udall’s complaint to his psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with OCD. “Maybe this is as good as it gets” he told his psychiatrist, referring to his ability to function in the world and his lack of compliance with the standard professional boundaries the psychiatrist had set.

If I were his psychiatrist, I might have diagnosed the fictional Melvin Udall with a personality disorder as well. Most people would say he was a misanthrope, and from the unkind and sexually charged insults he uses on his openly gay neighbor, he initially seems to be a homophobe as well. Upon further encounters with other people of various races, genders, and walks of life, it would seem that he is an equal-opportunity hater, like Archie Bunker. However, he is wittier, “smoother”, savvyier, and more “in your face”, than the likes of Archie. Jack Nicholson portrays characters like this so well and so often that you have to wonder where the “actor” ends and the real man begins.

The perhaps unrealistic premise is that this man, who is set in his ways and seemingly hostile to those who are different from him, changes his attitude when his gay neighbor gets seriously beaten by a gang of burglars and needs financial help and housing when medical expenses bankrupt him. Udall takes in Simon’s dog, which he previously  disdained and maltreated, while Simon recuperates in the hospital and later returns to his apartment in a wheelchair.  A bit later, having gotten to know Simon and see his humanity, he takes in Simon in his spare room as well.

Another crisis, “his” waitress being absent from her job because her kid constantly gets sick and needs multiple trips to the emergency room, precipitates more relationship-building. It starts with sending a doctor to find out about the boy’s ailments and give him a full allergy test, prompted by “enlightened self-interest”. He is later able to move further towards genuinely unselfish behavior, but there are stops and starts and backtracking on the way.

The OCD this character exhibits is portrayed in the movie as obvious but not serious habits on the part of the protagonist, such as stockpiling bars of glycerine soap in his medicine cabinet, bringing plastic silverware to the restaurant he habitually patronizes, and taking pains to avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. The commentary track on the DVD to the movie revealed that they were going to show Jack Nicholson’s character engaged in some other OCD-indicative behaviors during some scenes in the movie in which they didn’t in the final cut. It was explained that the decision to change the original portrayal in this instance was to make the behaviors more minimal as the story went on.

The premise is that he gradually loses OCD compulsions as he becomes more involved in the emotional lives of the people he is in contact with, when he is put in circumstances where he ends up getting to know them personally, instead of just superficially. When Nicholson’s character finds a genuine ability to care for others and to successfully establish a relationship with a woman, his OCD behaviors gradually disappear. Whether or not this is actually a successful means to ameliorate OCD which cannot be found in a pill or a therapist’s office, I don’t know, but it makes for a very heartwarming and optimistic story.

Rory O’Shea Was Here