Review: White Eye (2019)

Tomer Shushan’s White Eye was the recipient of the 2020 South By Southwest Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short. A notable achievement in and of itself, but all the more noteworthy with the fact that the award came in a year when – due to the Coronavirus pandemic – the festival itself didn’t happen. In its examination of the boundaries between the often solipsistic nature of human behaviour and existing within a wider social context, White Eye feels extremely timely in a current world climate where community responsibility and self-interest struggle to reconcile themselves.

After finding his previously stolen bike locked up outside a building, Omer (Gad) tries to find a way to take it back. He soon finds the new owner, Yunes (Tekelaeb) an immigrant who is working in a meat packing place. When Yunes swears that he just bought the bike a week ago from a stranger, Omer finds himself deciding what he must do. But soon the police are involved and things begin to spiral out of the control of our protagonists.

Shot in one continuous take – which gives the film a sense of energy but never feels like cheap gimmickry – White Eye shows how seemingly simplistic choices ripple with a hugely complex wave of cause and effect. The film begins with a man simply wanting his bike back. It ends with him discovering a world of frightened and desperate people that renders his concerns insignificant.

It’s easy to see the film as a criticism of Omer and his actions that set off the chain of events and, by extension, the inherent selfishness of human behaviour. Yet, when Yunes begins to explain his actions (stating plainly that “We’re both human,”) Omer seems willing to work something out. It’s only when the police get involved that things become unassailable. The breakdown in society comes not because of individual foibles but because of a system in which right and wrong are as stark as black and white.

This is reflected in the colour palette of the film as Omer flits between the outside darkness and the brightly lit world of the meat packing plant while the final image of the film gives everything a sense of bitter irony.

White Eye is a quietly complex affair about how reducing human morality to binary decision denies our inherent ability to communicate and compromise. 

Original title: White Eye
Country:  Israel
Language: Hebrew
Runtime: 20’
Written/ Directed by: Tomer Shushan
Produced by: Shira Hochman, Kobi Mizrahi
Cast: Daniel Gad, Dawit Tekelaeb
Cinematography by: Saar Mizrahi
Editing by:  Shira Hochman
Sound Design: Nin Hazan
Production company and contact: MINA Films,