Somewhere between Waltz With Bashir & Wallace & Gromit (with a few live-action reenactment scenes straight out of an episode of Unsolved Mysteries sprinkled throughout) lies The Wanted 18 – a multimedia documentary/fiction hybrid concerning grassroots activism within a small Palestinian community. Based on a true story, the film chronicles a group of self-taught Palestinian farmers who learn how to produce their own dairy in an effort to boycott an Israeli dairy conglomerate that has a stronghold on their community. Instead of paying astronomically high prices for basic things like milk & butter, the Palestinians secretly purchase 18 cows from a sympathetic Israeli farmer and they soon develop a unique system that distributes milk throughout their town. Over time their operation becomes so successful that it catches the attention of the Israeli government who eventually deem the 18 dairy cows a “threat” (the cows are eventually ordered to be exterminated in a timely fashion). Now the Palestinians have to come up with a way to hide the 18 cows from the Israeli military so they can still produce milk for everyone (the film mixes both claymation & comic book style animation with real interviews from both the Palestinian and Israeli side of the conflict).
In a strange turn of events, this very film drudged up a small bit of similar controversy as Palestinian co-director Amir Shomali was not allowed entry in to the U.S. for the Humans Rights Watch festival premier of The Wanted 18 as he was deemed a security threat by his home country.
While this film’s heart is definitely in the right place, I found the mixture of “goofy” comic book animation combined with subject matter concerning the Israeli/Palestine conflict to be a bit conflicting. On the surface this film is just too “cute”. Co-directors Amir Shomali & Paul Cowan even go so far as to give some of the cows comical personalities (certain sections in the film are actually told from the cow’s perspective), and there are more than a few scenes that’ll make you giggle. But this isn’t Boxtrolls or Chicken Run. The on-going conflict between these two nations isn’t cute or funny yet, at times, that’s what the film might lead some to believe. I don’t mean to downplay the effort & artistry that goes in to stop-motion animation, but I don’t see what it has to do with this particular story. I understand the honest attempt at trying to make a unique film rather than a typical documentary made up solely of boring interviews (Shomali does try his best to make the connection between comic books and the Israeli/Palestine conflict) but the actual story here is already incredible enough without the cartoonish aspect (while Waltz With Bashir was also an animated feature that dealt with some of the same issues, the animation was more in line with a serious graphic novel, whereas The Wanted 18 comes off more like a quirky PG-rated family movie when it’s really a story that should be geared towards mature adults that have some kind of basic knowledge about the history of the Intifada, the Clinton administration and figures like Yasir Arafat).
The Wanted 18 still clocks in at 75 minutes so it’s not like you have to devote a whole lot of time to watching this. My suggestion, for those of you interested in this particular subject matter, is to watch the movie first, then do some research on the real story as to gain a slightly better perspective.