A Vivian Ducat double-feature is in store for those who make it to the Hollywood 20 this weekend for a screening of All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert. In addition to director Ducat’s documentary on leather artist Rembert, she will also premiere the short film Stonefaced in advance of the feature. She is already in Florida bracing for the Sarasota Film Festival and spoke with SRQBACKLOT.COM about the creation of her films.
Ducat’s major entry in the festival is All Me, which serves as a biography of Rembert and has been screened more often at art museums than film festivals. She met Rembert while he was opening a show in New York City and quickly struck up a friendship. “I just started to talk to him and was impressed by the whole way he is able to communicate,” she said.
Rembert did not fare well in the Civil Rights era. He was confronted by a lynch mob in the 1960s and found himself serving a prison sentence through much of the 1970s. When Ducat was starting her college career, Rembert was on a chain gang in Georgia. “That was striking to me,” Ducat notes. But life turned up for Rembert, albeit gradually, after that. He moved to Connecticut, though he ended up in a neighborhood blocks from Yale but separated by a huge income difference.
Eventually, though, Rembert established himself as an outstanding artist, particular in the art of leather. Still, though, Ducat says it is Rembert’s story that makes her film a great work, not Rembert’s art.
Last year, she put together an eight-minute film on Rembert, which has since been used as an informational video with a traveling exhibit of his work. A year after filming that piece, Ducat did some more interviews with Rembert and put together the full-length feature.
As for Stonefaced, that short film follows another African-American artist: Robert A. King. King is an architect/author/professor and the 15-minute film explores his interest in gargoyles. The film, which will screen for its first theater audiences here in Sarasota, will screen before both showings of All Me.
Of note, Ducat is not black herself. Rather, she is the child of Jewish refugees who fled Europe in World War II. While there is certainly a rich story to tell there, it is not one Ducat even likes to discuss at dinner parties, much less make the subject of a documentary. Instead, the story of African-American professionals lures her interest.
The reason why, she supposes, is that all of the biographical interest in blacks of a certain generation seems focused squarely on movement leaders. The stories of professionals who survived racial hardship in the 60s and came out of the era finding success and acceptance seem like important stories to tell. “It’s always about Martin Luther King, Jr. and people in the civil rights movement,” Ducat says. “The stories need to be told about those who are not political leaders, but those people are just not depicted in media.
The movies screen on April 14 at 5pm and April 15 at 1:45pm.