May 16, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Point of difference By Marama Davidson

7 min read

Point of difference By Marama Davidson

Warning this korero is neither impartial nor objective!

I look for point of difference in most things, and the only one I can offer in this piece is biological. There is no journalism background, no writing prowess, no insider industry eye and certainly no acting experience. No whakapapa is about it!  This is a profile of Rawiri Paratene written by me his eldest child. I offer it to celebrate Fathers Day and just before the October release of the New Zealand movie The Insatiable Moon. In this gem of a movie lies a lead performance from my dad that people are saying could be rated among his finest.

Let me firstly address context. I am the eldest of six kids which includes two stepsisters. Dads number twelve mokopuna is due in September 2010 to my sister. At every opportunity does he flaunt his quantity of mokopuna, sometimes even taking poetic licence to enhance the number. In the same breath he urges us to all get neutered – being a lover for the environment and all. My siblings and I were raised all over Aotearoa mainly following dad around in his acting work. But we spent a large stint of our childhood growing up on our turangawaewae in Hokianga with dads links to Whirinaki and Motukaraka. Now we all live in Auckland except for a stepsister who lives in Wellington. We are all boringly close and loving. Our parents and step parents are our heroes.

Dad launched into his lifelong career in theatre, film and television well before us kids were born so it is all we know. Any standard Google search will throw up a good summary of Dads 38 year career so I am loathe to. But I will say that I fondly recall our bedtime stories being one man acting performances involving several characters and musical renditions. If a book was pulled out, it was likely to be Shakespeare. As kids we celebrated Shakespeares birthday every April with a day off school. We would indulge in a whanau picnic and recite the Bards works. For years we assumed it was an official public holiday until our mates at school looked blank when we would ask them so what are you guys doing for Shakespeares Birthday?

Then there is the activist dad. A 1980s childhood in a predominantly Pakeha Dunedin is a harsh thing when your young radical parents are lamenting the injustices of colonisation. We were poor, who wasnt? But it meant we were at the mercy of many a prejudiced landlord. The whole Im not racist, one of my best friends is a Mouwry statement was often the straw that broke dads calm. We witnessed impassioned and fiery street discussions between Dad and our Pakeha neighbours. I will never forget the time those neighbours yelled at us to go back to Bastion Point. So in our childhood, there was that I suppose.

But for me dads most lingering essence is from his performance as Father and Grandfather. For one thing, I picked him to be my father because he was destined to choose a great mum and then a step mum for us. If choice of women was an indicator of greatness, dad would surely be knighted by now! Their strength, wisdom and outright goodness are something surely no man could ever really deserve. Dad made sure he got them for us though so talented!

So from these parents we learnt unconditional love. Dad always championed an outward display of loving emotion that even today some men find difficult to muster. Back then those displays certainly seemed an embarrassing anomaly. On my first day of boarding school, nothing would prepare my Nana and I for the howling mess that would become my father as I unpacked my suitcase. Nana and I could only look at each other and giggle as he went running out of my hostel a complete wreck. I was 14 years old not five! Another favourite whanau joke is when my then country bumpkin sister and I got lost in Auckland City as young teenagers. When asked by police to give a physical description of us we had missed our rendezvous by a whole five minutes by then Dads reply through howling sobs was the two most beautiful girls in the whole wide world. And then we came skipping around the corner..

That love was the foundation for a stimulating and unorthodox upbringing that would extend our thinking and feed our inquisitive minds. I succumb to that same sense of disregard for rules and regulations. Stability for my children is only there to serve their sense of security for those special times when I must tip all routine on its head. Only as adults did we come to understand the value of those rule ridiculing crazy ventures Dad imposed on us.

As a grandfather, dad is even more resolute! Next to President Obama he might just be the most travelled human I know. So it is nothing for him to order a taxi straight from the international airport to my doorstep, needing a mokopuna fix (there are six of them in my whare) even before he sleeps off the jetlag. When my daughter, his first moko, was born 16 years ago he burst straight into the delivery room immediately after hearing of her birth. He was fresh from party celebrations where he had just picked up another NZ film and television award (there are five so far). But that night the birth of his first moko stole even his own thunder. I believe he held her almost before her own father did. And yes, he sat there staring at her and just cried.

Now there is this movie The Insatiable Moon. It is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Mike Riddell. Mike also wrote and co-produced the movie and his wife Rosemary Riddell directed. Mike and Rosemary have three grown children and I am waiting for one of them to provide as detached a write-up as this one.

Insatiable Moon is just classy. It is set in Ponsonby, Auckland and the synopsis reads:

When Arthur, self-proclaimed second son of God, sets out to save the world he loves, miracles can happen. He brings wonder and hope to his enchanted urban life, shadowed by his devoted band of boarding house friends. The foul-mouthed house manager, Bob, cares for the men with a rough sort of love. Fragile community worker Margaret, struggling with infertility and an empty marriage, wonders at her own grip on reality when she falls for the charismatic Maori man after a chance meeting.


Which is annoying for those of us gallantly rooting for it to be acknowledged but at least the movies struggle aligns to the very kaupapa of the story itself. I am drawn by how it asks us to remember those we too often forget. We also get to dream a little. In this cynical time fancy being given a deliberate moment to ponder miracles. In Ponsonby even? The movie received no funding from the NZ Film Commission and has scraped its way to our screens after eight years of borrowing and begging, winging and praying. The response so far includes standing ovations during July and August this year as it screened in the NZ International Film Festival. The cast is stellar with names like Sara Wiseman, Ian Mune and Greg Johnson joining my dad who takes the lead role of Arthur. Stellar more so because they were all paid about five dollars each for this gig.

I love this movie – no surprises there. I am immensely proud of mine and the Riddell kids parents! Dad gave us a love for cinema and I rejoice the authentic Kiwi flavour that our quality films allow us to savour. I admit feeling precious about this film. Will it receive the recognition it deserves given its struggle to get to our screen? All I can do is urge whanau to go and see it. Rather than take my nepotistic layperson word, decide its merit for yourselves. Tautoko the efforts of a dedicated cast and crew who stuck by this movie as the project fought to stay alive. They hung in there because of the wairua it was too important a story to just give up on.

At the movies premiere in Auckland on July 17, Dads whanau support took up a whole six rows of seating. We laughed, cried and experienced all emotions in between. And then we filtered out of the theatre hugging and kissing our Rawiri Paratene. We beamed with love and pride in the knowledge that the lead actor of that gorgeous story belongs to us.

Bet you wont see those sentiments in any other review!

Please check the facebook page The Insatiable Moon!/insatiablemoon?ref=ts

Also The Insatiable Moon would like to thank Marama Davidson for this great review and for sharing some very personal insight into her whanau and her very talented and much loved father, Rawiri Paratene.

9 thoughts on “Point of difference By Marama Davidson

  1. Mate… it’s miracles all round i reckon… your father, you, your mothers, your whanau, you fullas movie,…karawhiua!

  2. Kia ora e hoa – a beautiful piece of writing. You may not be a journalist or an industry eye, but the most powerful writing comes from the heart I think, as this surely does. Nice to get an intimate view of a man many of us only know through the screen! Thanks for sharing him with us 🙂

  3. Ka mou te wehi kia koe Marama,te atahua i roto ia koe mo to Matua Papa .Me miharo nga iwi katoa mo to taonga kua panui nei tia e koe,te wairua o to ngakau e hine ka nui te aroha.Nga mihi ki to Mama,me tona kaha,ite tu maro ki te manaki tona ake whanau,e kui ko puawai hei kite ma te Ao,korua ko Rawiri.

  4. Living in Otaua ova the hill from you, and following your dads career as an ‘activist’ an actor an being Moury im for eva stickin up for him when debates present themselves, hell im proud of the man and have never met him, now to read such an awesome korero…………..

  5. Wow! You're so nice! What an awesomely awesome piece. The Hokianga makes some wonderful people – im gonna move there immediately to see if it can knock the last of the australian out of me once and for all and practice being fabulous!

    Aroha nui ki a koe Marama me tou whanau!

  6. What an awesome way to say I LOVE YOU and your THE BEST DAD! lay-writers even nepotists bring back the soul in written communication – Well done Marama!

  7. A moving, indepth depiction of whanau pride and aroha. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude Marama, for sharing your precious taonga.

  8. Kia Ora Marama! Great piece. The kind of thing every proud Dad would like to see written about him by his children. My two daughters co-star in The Insatiable Moon and share a couple of scenes with your Dad. I'll always have extremly fond memories of his visit to our home to encourage and rehearse the girls (their first time in a movie – so lots of nerves), and of the way he treated them when on set, at the wrap party, and again at the celebration after the premiere screening. He always made a special point of getting down of their level and interacting with them, encouraging them etc. Those actions told me a lot about him as a person and of his character.

    As Mike says above, a beautiful and honest tribute to a wonderful man. You and we can feel very proud of him.

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