It's hard to find anyone who can truly state that they have experienced both sides of the Israel and Palestine conflict evenly. In the film The Wanted 18 directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan have managed to find a subject that fits the criteria, a group of cows. The film starts with the narrator who was in a refugee camp in Syria at the time of the first Palestinian Intifada. The scene shifts to an individual hiking up steps in the mountains recalling the Intifada a time of civil protest and boycotts. The people of Beit Sahour were paying taxes to a foreign occupying government but were not allowed to produce anything on their own. All of their food and supplies came from Israel. If the plan is to boycott then an alternate source food away from your target is mandatory. The Beit Sahour Agricultural Committee came up with the ideas of cows that they purchased from a Kibbutz. Through the cows they could produce their own milk and the bovines could be the centrepiece of a collective farm.
The key to the documentary project was the decision to use stop motion animation thus giving few of the cows a voice and personality. Riuka, Ruth Lola and Goldie are introduced first as staunch supporters of the Israeli State while at the Kibbutz then slowly transformed to Palestinians as they eventually become hunted by the Israeli army once declared A Threat to the Security of the State of Israel by the Military Governor.
The directors bring a lot of humour to a serious subject and time period though the use of the animated cows. The story is mix of live action accounts from Beit Sahour residence who were present at the time and all played roles in keeping the cows hidden and throwing the army off the trail. The absurdity if the situation is played out on film as the Israeli Army locate the cows, takes their pictures noting their numbers and gives the farmers 24 hours to get ride of the Bovines. The Palestinians hid the herd leading to a curfew and soldiers going around town showing the photos asking residence if they have seen this cow.
The film tackles the serious issue of a tax boycott the West bank. The Beit Sahour residence did not want to pay them to a foreign government. The Israeli's insisted they had to pay and began to confiscate any items they could for those in arrears. They stop people who were offenders on the street taking their cars on the spot. They come to homes to take furniture, televisions and dining room tables. The practice did not stop until a UN edict was put in place followed by the 1993 peace agreement between Sharon, Arafat and Clinton. The cows were no longer needed and the legend of the white calf that escaped into the desert on the way back to Israel is pursued by the directors towards the end of the film.
The Wanted 18 is a unique take on the Israeli Palestine conflict. It shows in a light hearted and understated way how outlandish activities and positions can build up on both sides. The interviews are emotional while telling of the events many finding the period a high point in their lives. The directors though the use of the stop animation cows display how ones perspective can and would change based on the message you're being fed from either side of the wall. It is a film that I can definitely recommend.
*** 1/2 out of 4
The Wanted 18 | Amer Shomali / Paul Cowan | Canada / Palestine /France | 2014 | 75 Minutes.
Tags: Bovine, Civil Disobedience, Boycott, 1993 Peace Agreement, Intifada, Stop-motion Animation. Documentary.