Reaching for the moon

Rosemary Riddell: "For me, the film's themes include a strong sense of redemption and of hope."
Rosemary Riddell: "For me, the film's themes include a strong sense of redemption and of hope."
Actor, director, family law specialist and now a district court judge, Rosemary Riddell has witnessed plenty of drama.

Yet her latest project, film The Insatiable Moon, has provided her with challenges both personal and professional.

The metamorphosis of her husband Mike's 1997 novel into a film of the same name has been an exercise in patience.

It also reflects the passion required to steer an initial vision beyond some substantial financial hurdles, notably the New Zealand Film Commission's decision last year not to support the producers' application for a significant grant (originally, the film's budget was around $6 million), a move which prompted the collapse of other funding streams.

All the more satisfying then that the world premiere of The Insatiable Moon should attract a full house at the New Zealand International Film Festival at Sky City Theatre on July 17 - the first show in the festival to sell out.

"There were about 700 people and we got a standing ovation.

Ian Mune stars as Norm and Ray Woolf as Roger in 'The Insatiable Moon.'
Ian Mune stars as Norm and Ray Woolf as Roger in 'The Insatiable Moon.'
"It was a totally unexpected reaction," Riddell reflects.

The Insatiable Moon stars Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider) as Arthur, a psychiatric patient with intriguing insights into the human condition.

Self-proclaimed second son of God, the man brings wonder and hope to his urban life, accompanied by a group of friends, including alcoholic Norm (played by Ian Mune), foul-mouthed boarding-house manager Bob (Greg Johnson) and fragile community worker Margaret (Sara Wiseman), who falls for the charismatic Arthur.

Arthur sees a chance to prove his heavenly credentials when real-estate developers threaten to close his boarding house and he preaches a vision of a just and caring society before his psychiatric maladies grow stronger, prompting doctors to sedate him, a course of action that ultimately kills him.

"The book was set in a time when mental health institutions were being closed down and people were being relocated into the community," Riddell explains.

Rawiri Paratene as Arthur. Photos supplied.
Rawiri Paratene as Arthur. Photos supplied.
"The people in the boarding house represent that sector of society - they are marginalised.

"It's not a pitying look at them. This is who they are.

"They have some extraordinary wisdom within their disabilities.

"I don't want it to be seen as a film of various lessons or morals people can learn.

"It is entertainment, with a twist.

"For me, the film's themes include a strong sense of redemption and of hope.

"Another thing - and this is something I see in my job as a judge - is that there is a very strong public backlash about sentencing, that throw-away-the-key mentality.