DUBAI: Writer and director Tomer Shushan is no stranger to stories. Growing up listening to his grandfather entertain people through stories, he aspired to be a storyteller. Little did he know that some day he would be writing and directing his own stories.
Although his film “A Sight” (2014) and TV show “Hellblazerbiz” (2021) has generated buzz in the industry, it is his short film “White Eye” (2019) that catapulted him on to the international stage. The 20-minute film has been shortlisted for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Arab News spoke to Shushan.
What’s your story? Give us a bit of background on your life and what prompted you to be a director.
Storytelling is something that runs in my veins. I remember as a young boy I used to visit my grandparents every Saturday night and lots of people would come as well. It was a small apartment full of people — friends and family — and my grandpa used to sit in the middle and tell old stories in Moroccan. I couldn’t understand a word, but I saw how he touched people, and made them laugh and cry.
I remember I always wanted to tell stories and make people feel something. So, I used to sit on the window, looking at the streets of Tel Aviv and find characters and tell myself stories of where they came from and where they are heading.
I never thought of making films, but during my army service, I was a photographer who documented moments, and through the lens of the camera, I felt my power.
It was a very easy decision to study film. I feel that my biggest passion is to make people feel something with the stories I tell, visuals I create and sounds I choose.
Why did you decide to film “White Eye” in one shot?
The idea to make the film in one shot was because the story is about a person who experiences a stressful and intense moment. Instead of acting from a rational place, he gives into an egoistic rage. Everything happens to him in a short period of time without a moment to stop, reconsider or breathe. I wanted the audience to really feel the same way as the main character.
When a film is made in multiple shots, between every shot, viewers have a tiny little break to catch their breath. I wanted the camera to connect the viewer and the main character in a never-ending motion, tension, that doesn’t give you a break.
How do you feel about the response and the accolades the film is getting?
I am very happy; I can’t hide it. This year was very tough for filmmakers who wanted to present their films. We are all dreaming about the moment the lights go down and we can watch a film on the big screen with strangers.
But the success of the film made me really happy because all the film festivals went online and gave filmmakers a chance to present their films and audiences a chance to watch. And that’s the most important thing.
The fact that it made people from all over around the world react is unbelievable. I never thought that this film would affect so many people from so many cultures. That is what gives me a lot of inspiration and energy to continue and write my next ones.
Given the current economic and political climate, what message is the film sending?
Especially at this time, when we all feel like we can’t control our situation, I hope this story will remind us that the most important thing is to remain human in every action we do. We are all the same. And we have the power to change it here to a better place.
What do you think about the future of cinema given the rise of streaming services?
I think in everything there is progress and revolutions. Nothing can beat the magical energy in a cinema and I guess the next generation will miss it.
I hope cinemas make a comeback and people prefer to go out and watch a film.
The streaming world is taking over these days, but maybe after the pandemic, everyone will look for any reason to get out, so cinemas will rise again.