The documentary "The Wanted 18" tells the incredible, thrilling real-life adventure of 18 bovine fugitives that led hundreds of Israeli troops and two helicopters on a wild-goose chase for eight days in the 1980s.
Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians could not develop their own infrastructure or produce their own food. "The only thing they don't control is the air we breathe," says Dr. Jad Ishaq, director of the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem.
As an act of defiance, the townsfolk of Beit Sahour, a Christian suburb of Bethlehem, imported 18 cows from Israel to launch a dairy co-op. Having zero farming experience, the town sent university student Salim Jaber to the United States to learn how to milk cows.
Officials initially turned a blind eye, thinking the cattle wouldn't produce enough milk to sustain a business. But on the eve of the intifada, they felt the urge to crack down on civil disobedience. The military governor ordered high school teacher Jalal Oumsieh to get rid of the cattle because "these cows are dangerous for the security of the state of Israel," he recalls. The cattle and the dairy business went underground the next day, setting off the cow hunt.
Filmmakers Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali provide an Israeli military advisor and an Israeli military governor to affirm these accounts.
Imaginatively interspersing testimonials with reenactments, comic panels and Claymation, the film plays out like an entertaining absurdist satire. Some of its more whimsical flourishes, like the anthropomorphized Israeli cows, do threaten to subvert actual history into follies.
"The Wanted 18"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood