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Lost in Wonderland

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Rating: * * * *

Verdict: Touching and thought-provoking portrait of a fascinating New Zealander.

There's a shameful predictability about the story of this small film's manufacture. Our national TV news bulletins were always fascinated with Rob Moodie, the kaftan-wearing secretary of the Police Association and, later, the cross-dressing barrister. But broadcaster interest in a documentary going behind the superficialities was conspicuous by its absence, so director McIntosh and producer Costa Botes couldn't get NZ On Air funding; it was a pre-sale to the Australian broadcaster SBS that started the ball rolling.

Needless to say, it's a much better doco than you're likely to see on mainstream TV. With a gentle and intelligent touch, McIntosh (assisted by Botes' sensitive editing) probes the man behind the news clips and finds a beguiling and self-aware human beneath the surface. If she uses re-enactments once or twice too often, it's a small fault: most of them are evocative, even poetic.

Moodie is most widely known for dressing up as Alice In Wonderland (indeed, changing his name legally to Miss Alice) to protest against the judicial "old boys' club" that charged him with contempt of court. He feels neither doubt nor shame about his "love of pretty things", which is plainly rooted in specific and distressing childhood trauma.

More conspicuously, he shows not a trace of self-pity or self-regard: he's had an interesting life, he remarks at one point, but if everyone was like him the world would be a hell of mess.

The viewer of this film may not agree with the last remark. Moodie - sometime farmhand, engineer, cop and barrister - emerges as a determined lawyer of enormous integrity in two cases involving high-level corruption (in the police and the army) which threatened to crush ordinary Kiwis. It's a great story which, in a better world, would play in prime-time. As it is, if you have to go to the cinema to see it, it's very well worth the trip.

Peter Calder

Documentary Director: Zoe McIntosh

Running time: 52 mins

Rating: Exempt

- NZ Herald

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