Earlier in 2019, Judas Collar screened at my hometown Indy Shorts Film Fest as an official selection. While the impressive film didn't leave Indy with any of the fest's top prizes, nearly everyone who watched it knew that it was something special and a pretty extraordinary accomplishment for writer/director Alison James. Having recently screened over at Short of the Week, Judas Collar has proven to have a mighty impressive festival and awards life including being nominated for an AACTA, the Australian Academy Award, and picking up the short film top prizes at Austin Film Fest and St. Kilda Film Festivals.
Alison James is a bit of an indie legend in the Australian filmmaking scene and Judas Collar only adds to that legend. The film is a narrative short, a true narrative short, centering around a wild camel who is, essentially, set up to betray her own species through a real-life practice that is undeniably disturbing. It's a touching story, both tragic and inspirational, and it seems practically miraculous that James and her team of 15 were able to pull this off during a six-day shoot in over 100-degree, remote desert conditions while James was also 4 1/2 months pregnant. Over the course of the shoot, the team experienced eight flat tires, two bogged vehicles, and a broken down camel truck.
The end result is one of the year's most impressive, unique, and beautiful films that is Academy Award qualified thanks to its fest success and the fierce determination of the film's cast and crew.
Oh, and that cast.
While there are humans to be found in Judas Collar, the stars of the film are clearly this ensemble of domesticated camels going by the names of Sonic, Buddha, Claudia, Ebony, Wasim, Zara, and Petra. In this dialogue-free film, it's these delightful and hypnotically beautiful camels that bring James's story to life in ways that are difficult to describe. You simply have to watch it come to life.
Lensing by Michael McDermott is exquisite and beautifully captures both the Australian landscape and the narrative interactions between these two camels. As you're sitting there watching the story come to life, you feel it come to life through these camels and it's a pretty awe-inspiring thing to watch.
There's a complete absence of CGI here, a welcome reprieve from the usual way of telling this type of story these days. It should be noted and is specifically noted by the film's team, that while the film has tragic elements no camels were harmed.
A beautiful story unfolds in Judas Collar and it's an impressive feat in itself that amidst all this beauty and the wonder of these camels that it's the story itself that truly lingers in your mind and the ways in which that story comes to life through these extraordinarily beautiful animals and their natural personalities.
Judas Collar is definitely going to be one of the most unique films you'll see this year and you can check it out for yourself over at Short of the Week. I recommend you take a chance to check out this film as it heads into a deserved Academy Awards campaign.
For more information on the film, visit the official film website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic