A documentary by Oakland filmmaker Terence Nance made a big impression at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It’s called An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. It’s as much a multimedia work of art as it is a movie. Nance wrote, directed, starred in, and wrote music for the film, which explores the mind of a man who is falling in love. KALW contributor Kevin Robinson sat down with Nance to talk about an earlier film by Nance called How Do You Feel.
TERRENCE NANCE: It has a very experimental feel to it.
KEVIN ROBINSON: Why?
NANCE: For me, it wasn’t an experiment in the strictest sense because I knew what was going to happen. It is very heavily scripted. I saw it more as the way I articulated myself in cinema as opposed to experiment. I think that me not being from a background of filmmaking in the traditional sense. But instead, being from a music background. A visual arts performance background in formed it. I think that produced a very distinct result.
ROBINSON: Because you are using digital photography and are using claymation, animation – not your typical Hollywood studio look to it. It would be interesting to note that this is a kind of love story regarding two black people, a black love story on the big screen. And you’ve probably heard from some people that this doesn’t sell.
NANCE: Yeah actually somebody told me directly that this doesn’t sell, overseas. I’m not the type of person who is naive about that. That is part of the discourse of the western world. That is something that a black person from the global south has to learn how to contend with, how to navigate. I’m trying to add to my culture. Weather or not it comes out in those places' theaters. To me it is kind of myopic to even think about that. It is something that exists I made it. It will be available. Thank god for the Internet. For the people who want to see it will be able to see it presumably forever.
ROBINSON: In the film, towards the end ,you are asking questions to your muse, your girlfriend in the film, Amik Mentor about her unwilling participation in this film. What were you asking her that she is responding to?
NANCE: I am asking her, “How do you feel about the fact that I am in love with you?”
AMIK MENTOR (clip from How Would You Feel): I feel pretty strange. I mean, it is weird. How many people do you say that to? It is not a normal situation. I generally avoid the fact in conversation and direct interaction. If you don’t know what to do with it you might misuse it or abuse it or enjoy it and they are all dangerous things. Because enjoying it you let yourself go and let yourself into it. Which is completely an uncontrollable thing. To not be in control for people who like to be in control is risky, dangerous.
ROBINSON: So Terrence, what was happening in that scene?
NANCE: That was a series of interviews I conducted with Amik that I set up to give her a platform to tell it how she felt about me making the movie, about us, and mostly about how she felt about me on a personal level. I think that when I did the interview, I was probably pretty pessimistic about if she did have any feelings, that I just wanted to get it on camera, whatever the truth was. For a lot of filmmakers, I think their first film is about a retelling of an intense situation they have with a woman because it affects us a lot.
ROBINSON: How do you feel about women? Are you one of the few men who say they are in awe of women? There are some scenes in which you are itty bitty and they are huge as far as stature as if in universal cosmic and you are a piece of sand.
NANCE: The movie is goddess worship in a certain way. It is a celebration of the women in my life and how they have shaped me. It is how they have shaped the women in my future, the women that will be in my life. I think that is important in your emotional development as a male. Because culturally, we – people in the west – say men should behave a certain way, especially in regards to their emotions. Your emotional education comes from your interactions. This is a very hetero-normative statement, and I don’t mean to be that way, but for me personally, your emotional education comes from your interactions from women. So the movie in some level is thanks to Amik for that. Thanks to Nadja for that.
ROBINSON: These are the women in the movie.
NANCE: Yeah, these are the women in the movie. I am depicting these things and how they change me – how they improve me, and how they affected me intensely, because of how giving these people were.