LONDON: “White Eye” — a short film from writer-director Tomer Shushan — serves as a masterclass in concise storytelling. After all, the pivotal moment at the heart of Shushan’s semi-autobiographical (and recently Oscar-nominated) short involves little more than a dispute over a stolen bicycle, with no lavish set pieces or special effects required to create an enthralling atmosphere. Furthermore, “White Eye” is shot in a single, continuous take that follows Omer (Daniel Gad) as he tries to retrieve his stolen bike.
The camera buzzes around Omer, sometimes looking over his shoulder, then backing up to show events unfolding in front of him, or circling to show the audience what he can’t see. It makes for an intense 20 minutes of cinema, and it’s no surprise that “White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Shushan keeps the scale of the film small. “White Eye” takes place in a single building and on the street outside. As Omer’s attempts to get his bike back escalate into a far more high-stakes situation, there’s a palpable sense of rising tension and, without giving away too much of the story (which would undo the strength of the narrative), Shushan begins to ask a number of uncomfortable questions — about assumption, about prejudice, about empathy and retribution.
The 20-minute runtime flashes past in a heartbeat as the tiny world the film inhabits becomes both more familiar through repetition, and more uncomfortable as the severity of the situation dawns on Omer — and, by extension, the audience. Thanks to an understated performance from Gad, we see Omer begin to ask himself the hard questions about the strength of his own character. And by that point, we’re so taken in by Shushan’s carefully crafted microcosm that we can’t help but ask ourselves the same of our own humanity.