CURSE OF JUDAS CAMEL
IT was a story documentary filmmaker Alison James just couldn’t stop thinking about.
James had been researching a film about outback helicopter pilots when she stumbled across a company that worked in animal management with a specialisation in Judas Collars.
“I thought, ‘What the hell is a Judas Collar?’” She said. “I spent a bit more time researching and I was really captivated by this scientific device that had a biblical name.”
The collars, fitted with GPS trackers, are placed on wild camels. The animal joins a herd and, using the collar, outback pilots find the herd and kill all the camels except the animal wearing the Judas Collar. The surviving camel, a pack animal by instinct, will then go and find another herd to join, and the cycle continues.
Some camels become aware their presence leads to the death of the herd, and so, despite their natural instinct, choose to walk alone for the rest of their life.
After 10 years working in documentaries, James decided to switch to drama to tell the story of Australia’s cursed camels. It’s a
gamble that has paid off. Her film Judas Collar recently won Best Short at the Austin Film Festival, putting it in contention for an Academy Award in 2020.
“It’s incredibly exciting, we couldn’t believe it,” James said of the win.
“It’s a strange one because it’s got no dialogue and it has a cast of camels.” James said.
“I had grown men come up to me after the screening in Austin in tears. I think because there is no dialogue and it’s animals, people tend to project their own ideas on to it.”
The film tells the story of a camel wearing a Judas Collar and the animal’s growing realisation that it is leading the herd to its death.
Judas Collar is playing before the main feature at Somerville Auditorium tonight, and all next week at Joondalup Pines Outdoor Cinema.
Hump day: Filmmaker Alison James with Mr Pink from Camels West. Picture: Daniel Wilkins