CURSE OF JU­DAS CAMEL

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - BELLE TAY­LOR

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

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