THE WANTED 18
A tax rebellion, political clashes, border disputes… and cows? Veteran documentarian Paul Cowan and newcomer Amer Shomali put cattle at the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their collaboration, The Wanted 18.
The 18 refers to the 18 cows purchased by the Palestinian residents of Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem in the West Bank. This was the during the period of the Intifada, when Palestinians through acts of civil disobedience refused to pay taxes and use Israeli products without their own representation in government. One method of self-sufficiency was to cut themselves off from Israeli dairy products, so they purchased 18 cows from an Israeli kibbutz to produce milk and dairy for the residents of their closely-knit community. The cows quickly become political pawns, as the Israelis see them as a symbol of the self-determination of Beit Sahour, and they endeavour to take them back. Through interviews, archival footage, stop-motion animation and comic strip images, Shomali and Cowan relays this unique true story of the Intifada years.
At first blush, the premise may seem strange, but in spite of that, it’s charming, educated and keeps you rapt with emotion. Dozens of films have tackled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but not since the brilliant Waltz With Bashir have I seen such unique methods employed to tell the tale differently. The interviewees discuss the violent clashes they had with Israeli soldiers, and listening to the mother of a young victim talk about finding her dead son in the street is gut-wrenching. But it is hardly a dark tale. There is a humour and absurdity throughout the film; I mean, we are discussing cows as the centre of a political conflict. The stop-motion cows were totally charming, and I felt surprising amounts of sympathy for them. If a director can make me root for cows, they must be doing something right. (Cameron Bryant)
Saturday, September 6th, 8:15pm, Scotiabank 4
Tuesday, September 9th, 2:30pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Friday, Septemebr 12th, 5:00pm, Scotiabank 1