The Wanted 18

Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan recreate an astonishing true story from the First Palestinian Intifada: the Israeli army’s pursuit of eighteen cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared "a threat to the national security of the state of Israel."

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  • ★★★★½ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    Part of Lise and Jonnie’s March Around the World 2017

    Film 7 – March 9 – Palestine

    This is a wonderful little re-telling, I’d stop short of qualifying it as a real documentary – although it’s more balanced than Michael Moore – of the Palestinian Intifada of the late 80’s framed from the perspective of cows, and told in a comic book style.

    I’m serious.

    The nut is that a group of Palestinian’s from a small village purchase 12 cows, from a sympathetic Israeli farmer, to end their dependency on purchasing milk for their children from Israel. Those cows, over the course of time, come to the attention of Israeli authorities, who subsequently deem them a national security threat.

    I’m serious.

    While the material is light hearted, the subject is serious, and filmmakers Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali don’t shy away from commentary on true nature of the resistance, and the Israeli response. What makes this film special, though, is its humorous approach lets you laugh in equal measures with your tears. Special kudos to Israeli officials Shaltiel Lavie, then-military governor of the region, and Ehud Zrahiya, his Arab affairs adviser, for participating and reinforcing how absurd the Israeli response was.

    At a lean 75 minutes, it’s an easy and fun watch. Currently available on Mubi U.S.

  • ★★★★ review by Slappy McGee on Letterboxd

    Film #56 in MY YEAR OF MUBI

    An extremely clever and innovative film that combines many forms to tell a unique story from the first Palestinian Intifada. There is claymation, 2D animation, live action reenactments, historical footage and talking head interviews. So cool.

    You would THINK that meshing all of these together would not work. That it would be confusing in style and tone. BUT... the filmmakers do a GREAT JOB of carefully piecing all of the different styles together. It's a delicate balance I would guess, but it is done quite well and ultimately works and is extremely engaging.

    The story itself is of a Palestinian village that buys 18 cows so that they don't have to buy milk from Israel. The Israelis get wind of this and try to put a stop to it, but can't quite figure out how to get rid of these cows or how to break the spirit of this Palestinian village. It's a silly story that reflects a much larger (in importance) and sadder problem back in the early '90s.

    Well told and extremely well crafted. This is a very unique film. Definitely worth the time to check out!

  • ★★★½ review by Travis Wagner on Letterboxd

    In the wake of works like Waltz with Bazhir, the move to make deeply experimental documentaries is wholly embraced and while this work certainly aims in that direction I don't know that it entirely succeeds in its aesthetic commitments.

  • ★★★½ review by Michael Casey on Letterboxd

    Blending 2D graphic animation, stop-motion Claymation, dramatic re-enactments and talking head interviews, The Wanted 18 recounts the tale of a group of Palestinian activists who boycotted the Israeli taxation in 1987 by purchased 18 dairy cows from a sympathetic Israeli farm (a kibbutznik) to produce their own milk. But none of them knew the first thing about taking care of cows, and the 18 got loose and were deemed a “threat to the national security of the state of Israel.”

    The Wanted 18 is a humorous look at an odd situation that took place during a volatile conflict. The reality of living in an occupied state takes up most of the non-dairy discussion, but before the movie gets too didactic, directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan return to the Claymation cows and the absurdity that bovine could possibly pose a national security threat.

  • ★★★★ review by Mike Mariano on Letterboxd

    Watched at the IFC Center with a post-showing Q&A with director Amer Shomali and guest Michael Moore.

    The film is an effective blend of animation, dramatized footage, and documentary, focused on the lives of the people of Beit Sahour, where milking a cow was a political act.

    Shomali included footage from several Israeli government figures as well as the townspeople—the Israelis were filmed against blindingly white backgrounds while the people of Beit Sahour were half-concealed in shadow. Yet everyone was given the chance to answer questions from personal experience.

    So it was disappointing to learn from the Q&A that the Israeli interviews were conducted solely by the Canadian crew members—the Palestinian crew could only ask questions by proxy. The former military commanders and government officials were only willing to show empathy for the people of Palestine when they thought Palestinians weren't looking.

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