Two UI alumni re-visit Iowa City to screen Sundance film


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"Under the circumstances, how would you feel?"

Audiences in 101 Becker Communications Building on July 7 were asked this question repeatedly as they attended a screening of the independent film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, created by Terence Nance and James Bartlett, both alumni of the University of Iowa's Summer Research Opportunities Program and McNair Scholars Program.

The programs, which offer underrepresented undergraduate students with in-depth research experience and preparation for graduate work, sponsored the screening of the film.

The film was accepted into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, among dozens of other film festivals, and was written, directed, and starred in by Nance. Longtime friend Bartlett served as the movie's executive producer.

Using inspiration from Nance's experiences, and animation sequences developed by a large team of animators and enough creativity to spare, Nance and Bartlett documented the events and emotions surrounding a sometimes romantic, sometimes platonic, almost always confusing relationship Nance had with Namik Minter, who also starred in the film.

"It started the night she stood me up," Nance said, describing the 2006 event which served as the opening scene of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. "I wrote the whole film in one sitting, but really, the entire movie was written in my mind two to three seconds after she hung up the phone, [when] I began to understand that although I loved her, there was no evidence that she loved me back."

Soon after, Nance approached Bartlett with a script for a five-minute short film called "How Would You Feel?". They said the project grew and eventually took the form of a feature film, combining original shots, documentary footage, and 25 minutes of various animation sequences.

"Animation came out of a necessity to capture emotions and other things that are unfilmable," Nance said.

Soon after the film began screening, it gained the attention of numerous critics and film festivals, including the prominent Sundance, which selected An Oversimplification of Her Beauty for its 2012 festival. Bartlett said he and Nance were honored upon hearing the news from Sundance last winter.

"It meant the world; it meant a lot," Bartlett said. "It was a great experience knowing the rest of the world would get to see it."

Nance and Bartlett studied at the UI in 2003 before they obtained master's degrees from New York University and started production of what would eventually be An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.

Research Opportunities Program coordinator Diana Bryant organized the screening and discussion, which was cosponsored by the UI's Office of Graduate Ethnic Inclusion, the UI Diversity Office, and the UI Black Graduate and Professional Students Organization.

"It is important to show the accomplishments of the program, especially to current students, so they can see that they, too, can go on to do great things," Bryant said.

Nance said he, too, is pleased with the effect that the Summer Research Opportunities Program/McNair programs have had on his life.

"I wasn't that into film until I got here, really," he said. "A lot of things that happened here really got me started on making films from a fine art context. It was really like a utopia."

Bartlett said, he and Nance found the unique experience of creating An Oversimplification of Her Beauty to be a cathartic project.

"We really created the film with no commercial intentions in mind; Terence just did whatever creatively came to his mind and what he thought was most true to his experience," Bartlett said. "It is a representation of what can be done when you expand the concept of what a film can be."

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