The controversial Kiwi kids' book temporarily banned because of graphic descriptions of sex and drug-taking is being lined up for a multi-million dollar movie.

The film rights have been sold for Ted Dawe's award-winning novel Into the River, which scooped the annual New Zealand Post Children's Book Award in 2013 and quickly became the centre of a censorship storm.

Detailed scenes of sex, coarse language and drug-taking sparked outrage in various quarters, and some parents were shocked over the kind of content being targeted at teens. At least one well-regarded book store refused to stock it.

In 2015 the award-winning work was slapped with an interim ban by New Zealand's censorship review board. The ban was lifted and the president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Don Mathieson, QC, stepped down.


Dawe told the Herald on Sunday the first option on movie rights for Into the River were recently bought and he is excited to see his work moving towards the big screen.

Award-winning New Zealand filmmaker Paul Judge has snapped up first option on the rights, fending off a Hollywood director for the deal.

Judge, audience favourite award winner at the Melbourne Film Festival, will this year try to find a producer and the money to back the project, including applying to the New Zealand Film Commission.

Judge says he wants to build a budget in line with modern Kiwi films of between $6m-$10 million.

Dawe is eager to see the movie fly and is confident in Judge's understanding of a story exploring young New Zealanders.

"I'm crossing my fingers and this guy has got a very good understanding of the book.

"He's not just a person trying to make money, he wrote a critique of the novel that I was really impressed with," Dawe said.

"The procedure is he writes a script and then takes it to various people - the New Zealand Film Commission and people like that - and try and get support, get some legs under the thing."

Into The River, novel by Ted Dawe. Photo / Supplied
Into The River, novel by Ted Dawe. Photo / Supplied

Dawe says Into the River brought him new profile as an author and work is under way on his latest project, a "sprawling saga" he hopes will be written by the end of the year.

"I've become more public than I used to be and occasionally people get in contact to let me know their views," he said. "I'm working on a novel now, it's very much in the beginning stage.

"It's got a female central character. I've been criticised in the past for having an obsession with male characters, so I'm trying to address this."

Dawe says the new book, tentatively titled Fleur, will again be aimed at a young readers and contain topical issues.

"This book is mostly about mothers and sons. She's going to have a boy and he's going to be problematic. It's also about abusive relationships, marital relationships," he said. "It's got to be meaty, you see enough of it in newspapers so I think I'll have a look at a species of abusive relationships, how it unfolds and how people respond to it.

"Her earliest memories will be in the late 50s and I'm not sure how long she is going to live for, it depends on how she behaves herself."