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“They Trusted Me:” Film producer gets set to screen film about Colleyville

By Rebecca ChristophersonMarch 12, 2024No Comments

“They Trusted Me:” Film producer gets set to screen film about Colleyville

By Joy Donovan
Photo Courtesy of Hey Jude Productions

Film Producer gets set to screen film about Colleyville

Film producer Dani Menkin jets from one film festival to another, taking calls and doing business from the back of cars and inside airports. It’s a hectic schedule he maintains because of his creative work.


One date and time he has marked on his calendar is March 17, when the Los Angeles-based filmmaker will be in Colleyville to screen his documentary, sure to be emotional for many North Texas residents.


The film, a creation from Menkin’s Hey Jude Productions company, details the dramatic and horrific true story that unfolded in Colleyville a little more than two years ago. On Jan. 15, 2022, a British man took four people hostage at gunpoint during sabbath services at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. The service was being livestreamed on a cold Saturday morning while many were still watching from home because of the pandemic. Thousands watched the terrifying ordeal unfold in real time.


“Like so many other people, I was watching the event live on TV,” the filmmaker said during an interview by telephone after he left a Florida film festival. “As soon as I saw it, I was amazed by the story.”


He decided to learn more about the ordeal, which ended with the hostages escaping and their captor shot and killed by law enforcement officers who surrounded the synagogue. He met them — Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the congregation’s vice president Jeffrey Cohen, Larry Schwartz and Shane Woodward. “They trusted me with the story,” Menkin said.


Menkin will publicly screen his documentary “Colleyville” for the first time, March 17 at Look Dine-In Cinema, 5565 Colleyville Blvd.


The doors will open at 6 p.m. with a red-carpet entry, the documentary will be shown at 6:30 p.m. and a discussion will follow the screening. The film will be close to its final cut, Menkin said Tickets and information: congregationbethisrael.org.


In this 80-minute film, which Menkin worked on for two years, people who survived that day will tell the story.


With security camera footage previously not seen by the public, the hostages’ private text messages and personal interviews, Menkin addresses antisemitism.


“I was surprised to learn about the 11 hours they went through,” Menkin said. Of course, much of the time was tense, but there were lighter moments when they checked to make sure the pizza they ordered was kosher. “There were moments when they could even laugh.”


He’s impressed with the people he met and “mesmerized” by their stories.


“I became really good friends with them,” he said. “They’re really special wonderful people.”


One of those was Richard Newton, then mayor of the suburb with a population of just less than 26,000. When news of the hostage-taking broke, Newton decamped to the law enforcement command center, just across from the synagogue, where he remained from one day into the next.


“As I think back on that day, it was a great example of prayers being answered and miracles being performed, literally,” the former mayor said. “Everybody performed flawlessly, which was just a miracle.”


Newton was interviewed for the film at a temporary studio Menkin set up in a Colleyville office building. He predicted the film will have broad appeal.


”It’s a fantastic example of what our community is like, not just the Jewish community,” Newton said. “I’ve had people of the Jewish community say to me that they felt supported from the community, across the spectrum, including the Muslim community. Everybody jumped right in to support them.”


Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller, who also holed up at the command center two years ago, was another subject Menkin interviewed for the documentary.


“Dani was great to work with,” Miller said. “He was a true professional whose only desire was to tell the story of that horrible day through the eyes of those who lived it.”


Although the Colleyville screening is close to the final product, Menkin is still raising money for the complete distribution, disclosing he’s about 75% to his financial goal. He is searching for funding, and donors may contribute as a producer by contacting info@heyjudeproductions.com.


“In the movie world, it’s not a lot,” he said. “But in my world, it is because every dollar counts.” His plans include showing the documentary at various film festivals.


Since he began his career in 2005, Menkin has received numerous awards for his work that includes films “Picture of His Life” — a film about the wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum, who set out to photograph a polar bear underwater while swimming along with it — and “39 Pounds of Love,” about a paralytic man in his 30s who wasn’t predicted to see age 6.


Menkin’s films have been shown around the world. He also has served as a speaker and juror at international film festivals and has lectured at U.S. universities.


The past two years, “Colleyville” has been his major focus. He thinks area residents will recognize their neighborhoods and be intrigued by the interviews.


“This is the first movie called ‘Colleyville,’ so they should be so proud,” Menkin said. It’s an event that took place in this small community, but it became an international event.


“I’m so sorry they went through it, but I’m happy we managed to have a happy ending.”