Three months after major up and coming talent Tanja Liedtke was appointed artistic director of the Sydney Dance Comedy – a holy grail of arts gigs – fate dealt a cruel hand and she died after being hit by a garbage truck in August 2007.
Life in Movement, directed by debut documentarians Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason (who were close friends of Liedtke) captures efforts from colleagues and close ones 18 months later to expose the world to her revered work via an international tour of her productions.
The wounds were obviously still open when filming. Interviewees accidentally alternate between past and present tenses when describing Liedtke and the late artist herself appears regularly in footage captured not long before she died, which adds a ghostly veneer to the film.
Making a celebratory documentary about an artist close to the hearts of the filmmakers and interviewees – especially so recently after the subject’s death – runs the risk of spilling into over-egged sentiment likely to disengage those who are unfamiliar with the object of their adoration.
Life in Movement dances on the right side of the line, not objective or critical by any stretch but not overtly emotional either. It isn’t the insightful and judiciously edited interview segments that make the film, but it’s integration of production and behind the scenes footage.
It’s a tough sell for viewers uninterested in dance and choreography, but those who are ought to peg this one down as a must-see. Mao’s Last Dancer it ain’t.
Life in Movement’s Australian theatrical release date: April 12, 2012.