Life can change in the blink of an eye. For many, this is something people often hear but do not fully understand the gravity of. For others, it’s a sobering reality that serves as a reminder that they have to spend their entire lives walking on eggshells and trying to stay invisible. Immigration is a widely discussed topic in the US and around the world. While there are organizations and people trying to advocate for these voiceless communities, no one can truly understand what these documented and undocumented immigrants live through. This is something Writer and Director Tomer Shushan acknowledges in his Award Winning film White Eye.
Through a glimpse of the instability and unpredictability that comes with living as an undocumented immigrant, White Eye tells the story of how quickly a persons life can end through the eyes of a privileged young man who has never had to live with a target on his back in the way that immigrants do. Omer Attias, played by Daniel Gad, stumbles upon his bike that was stolen a month prior. In an attempt to bring justice to the situation, Omer ends up calling the police after he finds the man, Yunes (played by Dawit Tekelaeb), who he thinks stole the bike, but says bought the bike at a bus station. The situation escalates when the police ask Yunes for his visa and find out that it has been expired for four months.
Before he can even realize the severity of what he has done, Omer has destroyed a man’s life. A man who will most likely never see his wife and child again. A man who has done nothing to deserve the cards he was dealt. These life-changing events happen in the blink of an eye, and this is emphasized by the cinematographer Saar Mizrahi’s amazing accomplishment of telling the story in one long take. With not a single cut, the story is told in real-time in one location. This dedication to realism amplifies the intensity of the situation and proves how quickly someone can unintentionally ruin a life. The eerie sound design (Nin Hazan) further brings out the intensity, leaving the audience’s hearts beating as fast as the characters.
The realism of the film is brought to life by the incredible acting that is seen throughout every performance. While most of the roles were played by professional actors, the character Yunes is played by Tekelaeb who is an actual refugee that Shushan met at a restaurant. Tekelaeb understands what it means to feel unwanted and unsafe as an immigrant better than any actor could portray. His performance came from a place of experience and hardship, which is reflected on screen.
White Eye unveils a world that many are oblivious to. As of 2019, there is an estimate of 14.3 million undocumented immigrants in the US alone. That’s 14.3 million people who live with the fear that they will be separated from their families and punished for their mere existence and desire to live a better life. Although this struggle is complex to grasp, White Eye does a beautiful job of depicting it from an outsider’s perspective. A perspective that many who are in a place to help can relate to.