Discover: Terence Nance Uses Art to Understand


Terence Nance

There's something downright infectious about An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Terence Nance's debut feature that opens in theaters today. Smiling and warm, the director is equally inviting. First spotted more than a year ago at Sundance, Terence Nance and his film were memorable discoveries on the festival circuit last year. The film screened at the Rotterdam film fest before hitting New Directors/New Films last spring.

The project began back in 2006 when Nance decided to make a five-minute movie to express a certain sadness he felt when things didn’t seem to be working out with the object of his affection, a woman named Namik Winter (who appears in Oversimplification with Nance).

During a Daily Buzz interview back at Sundance, Nance explained that for him the film is about self-awareness and navigating intense feelings. The five-minute film grew into the 35-minute one, How Would U Feel? That short is contained within the feature-length final product.

"Writing the first short film was definitely my attempt not only to tell her how I felt about her in a big way, in a big epic way, but also to become self-aware about how I felt," Nance said. "Not just about her, but how I felt about love and how to do that as a twenty-something."

Nance defines himself more as a musician and visual artist, rather than a filmmaker. For Oversimplification, he employs a variety of approaches (animation, documentary footage, recreations) to explore his personal story and give it a more universal appeal. He wanted the finished film to have the look and feel of a kid's book.

In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Rapold calls the film "a dense, organic, dazzling and funny tapestry, making use of varies and subtly colored animation and stop-motion; candid video; playfully verbose direct address; chapters and footnotes and doodles; and suavely chosen music and sonic bridges."

Put simply, Oversimplification is exciting on both visual and aural levels.

"It was really an accurate depiction of what the emotions were that were inside that moment," Nance elaborated. "So that’s where I leaned on the animation and the illustration elements and some of the archival footage and the documentary stuff; it was just an effort to accurately convey each moment in a very direct way like a children’s book."

Winner of last year's Gotham Award for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You," Nance has generated interest from big names since hitting the festival circuit. Prior to signing a distribution deal with Cinema Guild, he brought on Jay-Z and Wyatt Cenac as executive producers, along with Joy Bryant and Dream Hampton. Flying Lotus has contributed music to the finished film.

Born in Texas, Nance at studied at Northeastern University and NYU. In a Q&A for FilmLinc last year, he was asked what he might do if he hadn't pursued this path.

"I wasn't an artist generally I'd be a linguist," Terence Nance said. "I'm obsessed with being able to understand everyone."

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is now playing daily at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Terence Nance will be in person for Q&As at Friday's 7:15pm screening and Sunday's 3:30pm screening, the latter moderated by actress Adepero Oduye (Pariah).

Discover is a weekly column on FilmLinc Daily devoted to spotlighting emerging film talent. Read our past interviews with director Davy Chou (Golden Slumbers), director Penny Lane (Our Nixon), director Frances Bodomo (Boneshaker), and actress Amy Morton (Bluebird).

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