Five men and four Bactrian camels travel 1500 km through India, but it doesn’t go quite the way it was planned.
If there are two things we love (apart from the planet), it’s camels – because they are the desert dweller’s best friend – and adventure. Do the two go hand in hand? Absolutely. And not only in Morocco and Dubai, but also in India.
Collective Moments of Madness is a heartful documentary about five international travelers who planned to trek 1500 km with Bactrian (double humped) camels through the Himalaya Mountains in Northern India all the way south to the Pushkar Camel Festival in the desert. But as we discovered recently in Tunisia, even the best laid plans go awry, and the camel odyssey was fraught with unexpected challenges that began with ominous words from an Indian Oracle.
Not so long ago we wrote about an Australian woman who spins camel wool in an effort to save more than one million camels in the outback. That was Helen Durrant, who we can thank for putting us in touch with Kamahl Druesne, the talented filmmaker behind Collective Moments of Madness.
We had no idea what the documentary would entail, and admittedly expected an amateur flick that would only appeal to the most die-hard camel lovers, but because we are always interested to demonstrate how valuable these animals are – not only in themselves but also for the numerous services they provide to humanity – we asked for a copy of the film.
And we are definitely glad we did.
The film traces the entire length of the journey from Ladahk in Northern India, where three Frenchmen, an Australian (Druesne, the creative mastermind behind the documentary and the charismatic narrator), and a Brit gathered, all the way past Rajasthan to the annual Pushkar festival that attracts 300,000 cameleers and visitors.
Right from the beginning there were unexpected pitfalls, the kind that would be – in reality TV shows – ironed out with nasty bickering and drama but that were instead handled with humor and poise, not to mention respect. Respect for the process that is travel and the transformation it creates, and for one another.
Real travelers, not those who seek out bespoke hotels and icy margaritas served up by cute locals with perfect buns, are constantly looking for the next best authentic adventure. Which is what the camel odyssey was all about. It was also designed as a gift of sorts. Indians living south of the Himalayas have never seen Bactrian camels, since Dromedaries are far more common, but when they did, they were filled with awe.
Adventurers, the people who are constantly drifting from one far-flung place to another, are often viewed with great suspicion: they are considered selfish and unable to dwell in ordinary society, or thought incapable of growing up. These stereotypes are severed in Collective Moments of Madness, which depicts real camaraderie, not only between humans, but also between the men and their hapless humped companions.
Every new challenge met with integrity is communicated to the viewer, allowing even the most listless couch potato to envision themselves in these magical landscapes, riding camels, eating and dancing with the locals, overcoming blisters and heat and early mornings.
In other words, this is the ultimate travel documentary, because it is so real and so heartfelt that the viewer will feel compelled to book the next flight to India so that they too can experience such a rich and expansive adventure.
Don’t expect a well-scripted, polished BBC documentary with huge funding. This trip is gritty and raw and the film reflects as much. But you will walk away with a whole new respect not only for our camel friends, but also for the people who still care for them.
If you would like to have your very own copy of Collective Moments of Madness, contact Kamahl Film