Israeli 'White Eye' Nabs Oscar Nomination for Best Live Action Short Film

'White Eye' tackles Israel's 'blind' bias toward African migrants

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Short Israeli film "White Eye" has been nominated for an Academy Award in the category of best Live Action Short Film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday.

“White Eye,” from 33-year-old director Tomer Shushan, tackles an Israeli problem familiar to Americans: open or subliminal prejudice by much of the population and police against nonwhite inhabitants, especially immigrants.

In the category of foreign language films (renamed international features), Israel’s entry “Asia” — an intimate mother-daughter film about Russian immigrants in Israel starring Shira Haas — failed to make the initial cut to 15 semifinalists among the entries from 93 countries.

Shot in one take — after numerous rehearsals — during one night in a squalid quarter of Tel Aviv, the protagonist of the 20-minute film is Omer, a light-skinned middle-class native Israeli. In the opening, he spots his bicycle recently stolen during a beach outing. While he tries to repossess the bike by sawing off its lock, Yunes, a black Eritrean immigrant taking a break from his job in a nearby meat packaging plant, spots Omer and claims that he owns the bicycle and had bought it for 250 shekels, roughly $75.

In a phone interview, the director told JTA he chose the film’s title as an allusion to “white eye” as an affliction of blind people and implies that many of his fellow Israelis are blind to the racial bias in their country.

“Though less intensive than in the United States,” he observed, there is considerable prejudice in Israel, notably among the police, against dark-skinned inhabitants and immigrants.

There are some 70,000 to 80,000 Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel, according to Shushan and government statistics. Half live in the Tel Aviv area.

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