blackout director terence nance talks race and realism
As i-D premieres the new film from Terence Nance, we speak to the director about his career to date.
Long gone are the days when activism just meant marching wayward with placards to parliament. Activism can start with a collaboration, a click, or in Terence Nance's case, in film. The Texas-bred filmmaker is the brain behind Blackout, a timely depiction of the brutality and discrimination black citizens face in the United States, brought to life through abstract dance and narration by American civil rights attorney John Burris. Nance's other works include his 2013 breakout An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, and No Ward that follows those displaced and affected in the wake of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Terence's vision has seeped into our cultural psyche and has made him an important voice amongst young filmmakers by making honest films that depict the issues that litter today's generation. i-D spoke with Nance to discuss his start in filmmaking, the importance of doing something and what he stands for.
How did you get into filmmaking?
My mother is an actress and theatre director and my father is a news photographer, so I think I essentially combined their identities and realized at some point that meant I needed to make films.
Are a lot of you films based around personal experience?
Yes, even if it's abstract or surreal, everything I'm making is rooted in something that has happened, is happening, or will happen.
A lot of your films deal with race and its perception. How does being young and black inform your films?
I make films that are within the ever expanding universe that is the black diaspora, and I think that fact is not well accepted in a society where white supremacy persists. So I guess my identity and the space I'm working in consistently buts up against and wrestles with the status quo, which is moulded and maintained by white supremacy.
Blackout is very timely with everything that is going on in the world. How did you get involved with John Burris?
One of the films producers, Ephraim Walker (he is also in the film), is also a civil rights attorney. He works with John and was a producer on Fruitvale. He made the connection.
What do you want people to take away from the film?
I wouldn't want to prescribe a response to the film. I hope each person's reaction to it is different. I hope it speaks specifically to their experience as a human being dealing with white supremacy and its symptoms—state sponsored human rights violations committed against Black people in America.
In this time of social unrest, what do you think young people can do to be involved?
First, I think they can aggressively seek out positions of political and social power. Run for office, insert yourself into the legal system as prosecutors and lawyers, insert yourself into educational institutions as principals and teachers, into the banking system. These positions of power need to be handed over to people who are younger, more progressive, and at the end of the day, people who are directly invested in actively dismantling white supremacy and wealth supremacy.
What are you working on next?
A feature film about lobbyists.
What does activism mean to you?
Waking up and doing something everyday to dismantle the infrastructure of systems that were raised to oppress you and or grant you privileges you did not earn.
What do you stand for?
Love, light, gratitude, empathy, and progress toward a transgressively communal society... to name a few things.
Text Lynette Nylander