Kamahl's camel odyssey documentary

KAMAHL DRUESNE had an epiphany while on an outback trek which culminated years later in a very unusual documentary.

The 31-year-old Ocean Shores man discovered the beauty of camels on that journey and they have inspired him ever since.

A testament to his love of the humped creatures is A Camel Odyssey, a documentary about an adventure in India that went downhill fast and which has just been secured by SBS for airing next year.

“The story's quite unique and I think that was one of the reasons why SBS wanted it,” Mr Druesne said.

“I watch a lot of television and I've never seen anything like it.

“And I think they liked it because I'm young and did something wild.”

He and four other travellers from France and England decided in 2005 to travel with Bachtrian (two-humped) camels 2500km from the Himalayas of Ladakh to the deserts of Northern India along the final section of the Silk Road.

It sounded like a great adventure and Mr Druesne was capturing it on film until the trip quickly turned sour in dramatic fashion.

One of the camels died and another became sick before eventually dying as well. Before long BBC World News branded them all camel killers.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stepped in and the Indian public practised their own mob justice spurred on by the local media.

For Mr Druesne the worst of it was not the predicament itself, and the fear of being in a foreign country without representation, it was the accusations.

“I'm a camel lover, so it was traumatic for me,” he said.

“I was absolutely shattered when they died. I just cried for so long.

“It was a big learning curve for me and I'm not the same man I was before I started. I was boyish and this was my rite of passage.”

Mr Druesne won the 2007 Life's a Pitch filmmaking competition and used the funds to go to the Australian Documentary Conference's Documart in Perth in February. There he won the People's Choice Award and attracted strong interest from broadcasters.

“I'm just relieved that I'm going to see the end of it, and that there's a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“With that locked in I can be more creative and not have to go through the pitch to sell myself.”

Mr Druesne considers himself something of a crusader for camels. They have a big attitude and amazing strength.

Ever since his fascination began on that 10-day trek in the northern NSW outback he has done a lot of research on the animals.

“I want to see camels being given the proper treatment they deserve,” he said. “Fifty years of Australian history has been on the camel's back.”

He has, not surprisingly, finished another documentary on camels.

“It's about a camel training camp in South Australia and it's beautiful,” he said. “It will be character driven and personal. I wouldn't mind finishing that one off and I just know that when the other one comes out on SBS there will be an offer or two.”

The 2008 Life's a Pitch competition is open from September 22 to October 6. Finalists will pitch their films to a panel of industry experts to win great prizes, including a travel grant to assist in attending film markets, at a gala evening on November 15 at Byron Community and Cultural Centre.



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