Documentary, UNLV professor mourned by the film community

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Stan Armstrong, a Las Vegas filmmaker who struggled to document a side of history that was not widely known, died Sunday after battling heart disease. He was 69 years old.

Armstrong was as much a director as he was a chronicler who “thriving in documenting history”, said his sister Pamela Armstrong. “A story that was not represented in the history books.”

Armstrong’s father, Lloyd, fled a lynching attempt in the South and came West, where he became a self-taught butcher and one of the first black business owners in historic West Las Vegas. , a close-knit but still segregated community at the time. Stan Armstrong, who became a documentary filmmaker, professor at the UNLV and essential film communitydreamed of bringing untold, true stories of Las Vegas to a global audience.

“He felt my dad never got the right (recognition),” Pamela Armstrong added. “Stanley listened endlessly to our father and wrote about it and in some ways documented his life through his Las Vegas documentaries.”

Although devastated by his absence, Pamela and Saul Armstrong feel a sense of comfort and pride in what their brother has accomplished.

“We are grateful that he documented West Las Vegas and brought them to life,” said Pamela Armstrong. “They just revel in the fact that they knew him and he existed. He gave voice to people who otherwise would not have listened.

During his decades-long career, Stan Armstrong documented Black Confederates and Civil War Native Americans.

His Las Vegas-centric films covered topics ranging from his personal experiences with the high school race riots, the old Moulin Rouge, and the struggles of the Paiute nation.

honor his father

Stan Armstrong was born in San Francisco, where Lloyd Armstrong settled after fleeing Louisiana where he fought back against a mob who later threatened to lynch him.

When he was a toddler, Stan Armstrong’s parents moved to Las Vegas in 1955.

Saul Armstrong, 59, said his older brother was a cinephile who studied filmmaking techniques closely while watching films, and was later captivated by the films of Spike Lee and prolific documentarian Ken Burns.

Growing up, their parents taught them to value education.

“I remember I was supposed to read ‘Up From Slavery,'” Stan Armstrong told the Review-Journal in 2015. “If I hadn’t read parts of it by the time my dad got home, I wouldn’t couldn’t go out and play.”

His father, who also trained local boxers and mentored youngsters, eventually opened three successful grocery stores.

“Stanley was the one who really wanted to honor our father,” Pamela Armstrong said.

Inspiration came early

At Rancho High School, Stan Armstrong joined the football team and the JROTC. During his time there, fights broke out regularly between black and white students, leading the police to open a substation at the school.

He highlighted these experiences in his 2012 documentary, “The Rancho High School Riots.”

“It was sad because (the riots) took away a lot of our youth,” Stan Armstrong told the Review-Journal after a 2019 screening of the film. “I hope people learn from the past.”

Amid racial tensions, Stan Armstrong has always been the peacemaker, constantly trying to reconcile with his white classmates, said Pamela Armstrong, 68.

“He had an ego, of course everyone has an ego, but he felt it was necessary for people to work together no matter what,” she said.

Stan Armstrong preached unity with the mantra, “we are all brothers; a race,” added his brother Saul.

Some of his former antagonists stepped in to help after his death, still expressing regret, Pamela Armstrong noted.

cinema lover

Stan Armstrong graduated from UNLV in 1995 with an undergraduate degree in communications with film studies and minors in history.

After graduating, his mother gave him his first $500 to fund a documentary, and he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to produce a film about the Battle of Fort Pillow.

“He was his love and he didn’t really care about making money,” his sister said.

Back in Las Vegas, he began teaching classes on race, film, and ethnicity as part of UNLV’s African American Studies program.

“It’s a transit town,” he previously told the Review-Journal. “People come here from all over with their own story.”

Stan Armstrong aimed to break the stigma that Las Vegas is a vice town.

“They should see him as a modern pioneer who loved Las Vegas and never left it,” Saul Armstrong said of his brother’s legacy. “Las Vegas is a place where you can grow up and have a family, raise kids and have a community.”

His family is raise funds to pay off his medical debt and hopefully further his goal of establishing the Armstrong Foundation to find a place to showcase his work. Personally, they said they would treasure what their brother had given them.

Her sister said Stan Armstrong taught her empathy, especially with people with disabilities. His brother said Stan Armstrong meant everything to him.

When Saul Armstrong was a child, Stan Armstrong took him aside and gave him books, encouraging him to get involved in anything “productive,” as well as teaching him how to exercise and lift. weight, a lesson Saul Armstrong took to heart.

“Until this day,” said Saul Armstrong. “I’m almost 60 and still working out.”

The Armstrongs said a celebration of life will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Tap House Italian American Bar, 5589 W. Charleston Blvd.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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