Move Me (
directed by Kelsey Peterson and Daniel Klein)
Aged 27 dancer/choreographer Kelsey Peterson went for a swim in Lake Superior and hit her head. Instantly she was paralysed. In that split second her life changed forever. Now, a decade or so on she has documented her journey in the intimate and life-affirming film Move Me.
Initially Peterson had intended to focus on what was being done to cure spinal cord injuries, her plan to look at experimental treatments and research, but over the years she was making the documentary her focus shifted and the film became a much more personal one and she brought co-director Daniel Klein on board to assist her. In coming to terms with life paralysed from the chest down, Peterson had to make profound changes in her attitude to what it means to be alive. Previous hopes and dreams shifted and other goals appeared. By making the film she hoped to be a bridge between the able bodied and disabled, having lived in both worlds, and to help address how disabled people are seen both in society in general and more specifically in terms of being artists and film-makers. As Peterson has stated the film became “the truth of my experience becoming disabled and how we all have to redefine who we are throughout our lives, because our lives and our bodies are always changing.”
Throughout the documentary Peterson talks frankly about her accident, its impact on her and we see the less frequently examined effect on her immediate family. This is most notable with her father who at times is unable to hide his disappointment at the lost opportunities available to his daughter and he struggles to resist attaching blame to her decision to go swimming after she had been drinking. Alongside numerous other moments of raw emotion exposed within Move Me this actualization of the often repressed frustration of a parent burdened with needless guilt at being unable to forever protect their child, unable to fix things is acutely moving. Later in, particularly poignant scenes, her father becomes gravely ill, another crushing example of how precarious life and health can be.
Of course there are tears but the laughter probably outweighs them. In all of this Peterson is a generous and, in spite of everything, genial guide with an infectious smile unafraid to lay herself bare. There is frank discussion of her body and its changes. Of sexuality and sensuality. Orgasms. Bowel movements. All of the real flesh and blood and guts that come with being human and then an indomitable spirit that courses through it all. It is a complicated, honest and detailed investigation of an individual’s journey through disability which is a joy to share.
Main Image by Noah Forbes; 2nd image, Brennan Vance - all images courtesy Submerged Films
Move Me screened at ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York and will appear at numerous other festivals this year.
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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