In the award-winning documentary The Wanted 18, directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan bring to life a remarkable story of nonviolent resistance during the First Intifada. The animated documentary speaks to the reality of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian civilian life. You need to support it
By Ray Hanania
The Wanted 18 recreates an astonishing true story: the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.”
In response to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a group of people from the town of Beit Sahour decide to buy 18 cows and produce their own milk as a co-operative.
Their venture is so successful that the collective farm becomes a landmark, and the cows local celebrities – until the Israeli army takes note and declares that the farm is an “illegal security threat.”
Consequently, the dairy is forced to go underground, the cows continuing to produce their “Intifada milk” with the Israeli army is in relentless pursuit.
The film, released in Canada in September 2014, is an animated documentary, conveying the reality of the brutal Israeli occupation on Palestinian daily life.
It is making its rounds through the independent film circuit. You can check on the film showings and also help arrange a showing in your community.
The film, The Wanted 18, premieres in Chicagoland at the Marcus Theaters (Orland Park Cinema, 16350 S La Grange Rd., Orland Park, IL) on Wednesday, August 26.
Here’s the movie promo:
It’s 1987 and the Israeli army is in hot pursuit of eighteen diary cows in the town of Beit Sahour, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The cows are declared a threat to Israel’s national security after a group of Palestinians begin producing milk for the town’s residents.
These newly minted dairy farmers have to learn the most basic skills—even just how to milk the cows! But they are determined to be a model of self-reliance and provide their community with alternatives to replace Israeli goods.
The Israeli soldiers find themselves in a game of cat-and-mouse as residents of the town work together to shuttle the cows from barn to barn. The fugitive cows of Beit Sahour become legendary and the “intifada milk,” often distributed under cover of night, is a part of residents’ daily diet.
Humorous and thought-provoking, The Wanted 18 shows the power of mass mobilization and nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation during the First Intifada – an era too-often simplistically depicted with stone-throwing Palestinian youth facing armed soldiers. This is a poignant film about nation-building from the bottom up, by the people not the politicians.
The idea for the film began in Shomali’s boyhood, spent largely at a Syrian refugee camp where his main escape had been reading comic books, one of which dealt with the story of the Beit Sahour cows. Montreal-based producer Ina Fichman first heard of the story when a group of producers and broadcasters at a documentary-pitch event Ramallah. Shomali’s original intention had been to make a short animated film on the story.
However, Fichman believed it had the makings of a feature documentary and approached veteran Montreal-based documentary filmmaker Paul Cowan. The project took nearly five years to complete—a lengthy process due to the time involved in creating the animation as well as the fact that Shomali and his Canadian collaborators lived thousands of miles apart.
Interviewed in the film are Jalal Oumsieh, a schoolteacher who had purchased the 18 cows, geology professor Jad Ishad, pharmacist Elias Rishmawi and butcher Virginia Saad. The film also interviews two members of the Israeli government: Shaltiel Lavie, then-military governor of the region, and Ehud Zrahiya, his Arab affairs adviser.
The film score is composed by Benoît Charest. The Wanted 18 is a co-production of Intuitive Pictures, the National Film Board of Canada, Bellota Films and Dar Films Productions. The producers are Fichman and Nathalie Cloutier. The film received funding from the Beirut-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). and from SANAD, Abu Dhabi film festival.
According to Wikipedia, the film had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and was screened to a capacity crowd in Ramallah. Other festival screenings as of the fall of 2014 include the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, where the film received the award for Best Documentary from the Arab World, the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, as well as the 2014 Carthage Film Festival, where the film received its Golden tanit for best documentary film.