I don’t usually write about the documentaries I watch on television but “Lost in Wonderland” was too good to let the opportunity go by.
The Queen and Alice by Leibovitz
The Times of London cited barrister Rob Moodie for the most outrageous behaviour by a lawyer in 2006 after he represented himself in the New Zealand High Court dressed as Alice in Wonderland. He’s a straight bloke who likes to wear dresses. Moodie’s extraordinary life, career and personality are examined in a documentary that’s as colourful as its subject matter. The story begins in early childhood, at the moment when young Rob, aged 7, sat in the back of a courtroom and listened as a judge made him and his older brother Bill wards of the state.
Rob Moodie as Alice outside the High Court
He suffered a profound sense of dislocation that left him struggling to find identity and questioning gender roles from a very young age. Rob Moodie’s battles against conformity and unfairness form the narrative of the movie, moving from his early days as a crime busting police detective, to his training as a lawyer, then years of national prominence as the head of the police union. The police were one of the most conservative groups in the country. Moodie dragged them kicking and screaming into the 20th century. And he did it wearing a kaftan and his wife’s pearls. After a few years of semi-retirement, Moodie returned to the law after a plea for help from a senior police friend whose life and career had been ruined by a bogus fraud charge. Moodie not only rehabilitated his friend’s reputation, he won a huge action for compensation.
The legal case at the heart of this film is another story, and one which pitted Moodie against the combined forces of the New Zealand Army, the Government, and the entire justice system, all of which seemed to close ranks in a remarkably sustained display of injustice. His clients, a farming couple, had been found guilty of negligence by a Coroners court after a bridge built on their land by the army collapsed, killing a man. The couple lost everything trying to defend themselves. After he took their case, Moodie discovered a secret document which proved the army knew the bridge was deficient in design and materials, yet they had given evidence to the coroner that nothing related to the structure’s construction had contributed to its failure. Moodie was unable to table the document in court because of laws forbidding public disclosure of any army courts of inquiry reports. Unable to live with repressing the truth, he leaked the document on the internet. He was charged in the High Court with contempt. It was a charge that could have potentially ended his long career. At times of greatest stress in his life, Moodie says he always feels stronger when dressed as a woman. How appropriate then, that he faced the greatest crisis in his life dressed as Alice in Wonderland. As he later said, “Alice was trapped in a world of madness, and so was I”. The outcome of this case proved uplifting, and provided the final clues to Moodie’s nature, and the reasons why he is the way he is.
Member of New Zealand Army**
**I’m a kiwi so I’m allowed to make sheep jokes.