Filmmaker Robert CordierRobert Cordier, still working in Paris at 82, engages the practice of art as liberation.

Professor’s film wears UWindsor identity proudly

Having the “luxury” of a research budget and support from the University of Windsor was key to the creative freedom history professor Steven Palmer enjoyed in making his feature documentary, Ghost Artist, which will enjoy two screenings during the Windsor International Film Festival.

Dr. Palmer was inspired to make a documentary when his discovery of a revolutionary film about medicine and the body made for Expo 67 led him to its maker, the artist, poet, and director Robert Cordier.

“Cordier told me so many stories about his extraordinary collaborations with a constellation of major 20th century cultural figures – Dalí, Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin,” Palmer says. “I thought the Expo film should be understood in that context. Because the original reference point was a film, building a cinematic frame to understand it seemed most appropriate. And Cordier was already 82, so time was tight.”

Palmer got in touch with novelist and screenwriter, Ed Riche, his longtime collaborator in creative media, and two weeks later they were in Paris to film Cordier at work directing theatre while they captured his stories of the avant garde art world of New York in the 1960s.

The film had its premiere at the Atlantic International Film Festival in September, and it will screen at cinematheques in Montreal, New York, and St. John’s in the coming months.

Palmer calls the final result “a great example of research creation,” mixing artistic and scholarly exploration.

“We had total freedom to find what we wanted, and to put the film together on research and artistic grounds,” he says.

He also credits UWindsor history alumni Nate White, who served as data wrangler, and singer-songwriter Ron Leary, who contributed the credit sequence music.

“I brought a lot of UWindsor merch to that first shoot and made sure as many people as possible were wearing it when the cameras turned on,” Palmer says. “There's a great UWindsor identity to the film, and we wear it proudly.”

With a runtime of 66 minutes, Ghost Artist will be shown twice in the SoCA Armouries Performance Hall:

  • 9:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8,
  • 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10

Find more information on the film festival’s website.