Yulia Karra
July 7, Updated July 9

Since October 7, there have been multiple reports of Israel-affiliated films and filmmakers being boycotted at cinema festivals and events around the world. 

Israelis in the film industry are understandably fearful that the ongoing war in Gaza will put a dent in their hopes and dreams of breaking through internationally, at least in the foreseeable future.

The underdog

Veteran Israeli documentary and feature filmmaker Dani Menkin admits the past eight months haven’t been a picnic from a professional standpoint. 

“On the one hand, as a filmmaker I like to look at things very broadly and understand the point of view of the other side, in this case the Palestinians,” Menkin tells ISRAEL21c.

Filmmaker Dani Menkin. Photo courtesy of Dani Menkin
Filmmaker Dani Menkin. Photo courtesy of Dani Menkin

“On the other hand, I have to say that you don’t see our point of view that much across most media platforms.”

Menkin says that antipathy in the industry, and in general toward Israel, comes from people viewing the other side as the underdog in this conflict. 

“The media always likes to side with an underdog. Israel started as an underdog, but now the media doesn’t see us that way anymore.” 

Colleyville

Menkin had to postpone the release of his latest documentary film, “Colleyville,” by a few months due to the Gaza war. 

The film tells the story of the January 2022 hostage crisis, when a British national, Malik Akram, took four people hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.

Menkin began working on the film shortly after the event unfolded, and by the time the October 7 massacre and kidnappings took place in Gaza border communities, he was finishing the editing process. 

“Here I was, editing a film about someone who targeted Jews, while the same thing was happening in Israel, only at the largest scale I had ever seen in my lifetime.”

The 53-year-old filmmaker admits that his immediate reaction was to shelve the film entirely. But as antisemitic sentiments around the world began to escalate, he decided it was more important than ever to release it. 

On May 29, Colleyville premiered at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv as part of the Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival

The documentary includes the never-before-seen footage of the 11-hour standoff, as well as exclusive interviews with the four hostages.

“The audience was left speechless after seeing people being held at gunpoint for 11 hours. For comparison, the hostages from October 7 have been in captivity for over 5,000 hours, without the FBI waiting outside.”

Work always speaks for itself

The Tel Aviv-born director and producer has been working primarily out of Los Angeles for the past 20 years. He says he has not personally experienced any discrimination since October 7. 

“The professional circle that I am in, these people know me. They know where I come from, that I love mankind, that I love peace. That hasn’t changed [since October 7],” he says.

Most of Menkin’s films are in English. His first international documentary, “39 Pounds of Love,” was shortlisted for the Oscars and won the Ophir Awards, colloquially known as the Israeli Oscars. The rights to the 2005 film were later sold to HBO.

Menkin’s first feature film, “Is That You?” won an Ophir in 2014, and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The filmmaker says he’s hoping the war will not negatively impact career opportunities of Israeli creatives working abroad. 

“My past films have won a lot of international awards, including The United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF). I actually just submitted my latest film to the UNAFF,” he notes.

TV and film fund to bring Israeli storytelling to the world
Illustrative photo by AlexLMX via Shutterstock.com

“In the past few years, it hasn’t been easy to get Israeli productions on the international streaming platforms or TV channels,” says Nati Dinnar.


“Even before the war, they didn’t feel like they needed to check that box; now it’s not important for them at all,” the Israeli TV veteran tells ISRAEL21c.

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“I hope they will judge it purely based on the quality of my work and my storytelling. If they’re judging Israelis only on the account of their nationality, they need to ask themselves some questions.”

Country vs. awards

Menkin’s work consistently avoids politics, prioritizing “human stories” over inundating the audience with messages. 

For some Israeli filmmakers that is not the case. It’s well known in the industry that criticizing Israeli policies or national identity is often well received on the international arena.  

The most recent example is Nadav Lapid’s film “Ahed’s Knee,” inspired by the story of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. The film won the Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

“Personally, I don’t think movies should be political; the most important thing is a good story,” Menkin says. “You can support either side [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] and you will still enjoy my films.”

He adds, however, that Israeli filmmakers openly criticizing the country in their work is “a sign of strength.”

“In some countries, you could get killed for criticizing the government. In Israel, we’ll give you money to fund your film,” he laughs. 

‘Fountain of stories’ 

Menkin says that if there’s anything positive one could take from the past eight months, it would be “a fountain of unbelievable stories,” some of which may become feature and documentary films. 

“At this moment, we’re still living the trauma, and people don’t want to get oversaturated,” he explains. “But in the long term, there will be so much to tell cinematically.”

Menkin prefaces his next sentence with the phrase, “I’m an optimist,” which he repeats several times. 

A scene from “Colleyville.” Photo courtesy of Hey Jude Productions
A scene from “Colleyville.” Photo courtesy of Hey Jude Productions

“The war will be over, and the world will need Israeli stories and the wonderful storytellers that we have; good stories are universal,” he says.

“At the end of the day, my production company is called Hey Jude, like the Beatles song. The lyrics are my motto: ‘Take a sad song and make it better.’” 

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