Black love is a beautiful thing, but by no means is it simple. In the feature film "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty," director, writer and star of the film Terence Nance takes a singular moment quite common in most budding relationships and boldly reveals the intricate ways in which love infectiously begets fear, hope, anxiety, and inspiration. Without giving too much away, the storyline centers on Nance's own personal experiences and relationships, and yet an eclectic mix of mixed media, animation, live-action sequences, and other non-traditional film techniques immediately transports viewers to a luscious Technicolor dreamscape. Expressiveness trumps traditional format in this breakout love story that refreshingly features an all black cast of young creatives based in New York City. Having grown up in a family of actors, photographers, and musicians, the Dallas born filmmaker studied visual art at NYU where he immersed himself in a variety of art-making practices including mixed-media installations, music and film–all of which play a large role in "Oversimplification." Shortly after a screening at the Museum of Modern Art's New Directors/New Films festival, EBONY.com spoke with Nance about his many film inspirations, his unusually bold decision to weave animation with real-time, and his thoughts on black male-centric love stories.
EBONY: Explain "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" in a nutshell
My film is a blues song, and it uses the poetic replaying of a sad moment in my romantic life with a woman to consecrate it and try and make it beautiful and thus deal-withable. In order to tell the story of the relationship I experienced in the most nuanced and accurate way possible I use reenactments, documentary footage, and every animated technique you can think of except whatever you call that style they use for shrek.
EBONY: Your film centers on the experiences of a Black man's relationship history in a very detailed, artistic and complex way. Films exploring relationship phenomenon usually center on and target female audiences. How have audiences received this?
On one hand this reality is an accurate reflection of a society that does not value or validate males feeling emotions. Like most societies we have gone to pains to protect an image of masculinity that includes what amounts to an inhuman detachment from, love, empathy, understanding, sadness, happiness, remorse, and every emotion in-between. As men in America and mostly in the world we are supposed to do not feel. So movies generally follow this cultural beacon and with few exceptions stay away from exploring male characters in love.
On the other hand, I think that movies about love are made for and marketed to exclusively female audiences because of sexism. Most capitalist systems will homogenize and 'oversimplify' the tastes of the people in any given demographic. For instance, some women hate movies about romance and vomit when they see pink, but the hasn't stopped them from blanketing the market with your "Twilights," you "Vow's" and "Notebooks," and the 1000th version of "Notting Hill." Also movies influence culture and all the thousands of formula romantic comedies that Hollywood has produced over the years have cultivated a culture of women in the US whose social norms are rooted in the lie of Mr. right marrying the brunette at the end of the movie.
After each screening people come up to me, men and women, gay and straight and all in between both those binaries to tell me that they are going through EXACTLY the same thing that I showed myself living through in the film. That tells me that emotion has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual orientation. We all get ourselves into ill – conceived situations and have to feel our way out.
EBONY: What compelled you to incorporate visual art into the film?
Do you mean the animation? Well if so the animation depicts moments in the relationship that cannot be photographed. For instance, the emotional experience of reading a letter from a lover or a dream you had. One day we will be able to get cameras in dreams but until then we gotta draw them out frame by frame.
EBONY: What mindset should audiences have going into "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty"? Should they expect a film about relationships and love, similar to those they've seen before?
I don't think it would be fun if audiences had 'expectations' for any movie. I actually think that the downfall of the American entertainment industry has been and will continue to be the homogenization of content (75% of films are sequels / remakes / adaptations) to the end of creating a mass audience of people who are 'trained' to expect the same thing every time they go to a movie theater. I'd say audiences should clear their pallet of expectations and just go ready to be engaged by some artwork. They definitely shouldn't expect to see anything similar to anything they have seen before. Seeing something you have seen before might be boring.
EBONY: Do you have any film influences? If so what films and/or filmmakers?
Too many to name! I'd say for this particular film I was really influenced by a short film called The Perfect Human by Jørgen Leth. It is an abstract, self – reflexive, minimalist film that observes a man and his relationship with a woman. I wasn't necessarily influenced by it for "Oversimplification…" but this film is definitely my She's Gotta Have It. Similarly I saw Fellini's masterpiece 8 1/2 too late in the process to be influenced by it but in a lot of ways my film is borrowing from the structure and spirit of that movie. In addition to all of that, anything Charlie Kaufmann has ever had a hand in influenced me (Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation, Synechdode New York), Dogville (for the narration style), most things Wes Anderson has ever done but most specifically The Royal Tenenbaums and of course Amelie because of the 'children's book for adults' tone achieved by the photographic / sonic execution
EBONY: Is there anything you'd like to say to the EBONY readers?
Support films, music, and media that convey the global black experience in a way you have not seen it