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"The Wanted 18"

Screening as the first feature in the Witness Palestine film series, "The Wanted 18" is a most unusual documentary about an incident in the small village of Beit Sahour during the first intifada. In an effort to become self-sufficient during the Israeli occupation, and as a form of nonviolent protest, the townspeople purchase a herd of 18 cows.

The Palestinians view the cows as a sign of freedom and independence, but Israeli authorities see them as a threat, claiming the animals are "dangerous to the security of the state of Israel." To prevent the cows from being seized, the villagers decide to hide them. And just like that, a herd of cows are fugitives from the law. Israeli forces even conduct door-to-door searches, wielding photos of the cows and demanding, "Have you seen this cow?"

Filmmakers Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali capture the comedic absurdity of the situation using talking-head testimonials, re-enactments, stop-motion animation (featuring anthropomorphized, talking cows), and black-and-white drawings, often framed within comic book panels. The more whimsical aspects are often quite funny, but the participants are quick to remind viewers that at the time, the circumstances were deadly serious.

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