Documentary thriller-confession and contemplation on racism and traumas of history.
Director Travis Wilkerson travels to a small town in Alabama, where in 1946 his great- grandfather killed an African American with two gunshots but managed to escape punishment for first degree murder. Wilkerson talks to the locals about racism and other crimes then wrongly considered insignificant to our modern view. Driven by a personal story, he is aiming to understand why someone who committed murder lived a long life and is buried with a tomb, while another one was killed and thrown in an unmarked grave. The only difference is that the former was a white man, and the latter—black.
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? is a documentary essay raising uncomfortable questions, as if Wilkerson has interviewed the city itself whose buildings remember consistent sexual and physical violence towards African Americans. Violence that has been forgotten and abandoned in the distant past, along with the sins of the fathers. Wilkerson, however, revisits his great grandfather’s grave while realizing that finding a tombstone of the murdered Bill Spann is impossible. He would see his elderly relative though—marching with a poster calling to protect the white race from genocide, which the theory of ethnic diversity represented, in his opinion. He would drive that Alabama road which is mentioned in a song about the murder of anti-segregation activist William Moore performed by the folk-rock singer Phil Ochs and talk to an African American woman who witnessed lynch-mob executions in the neighboring district. Wilkerson edits pieces from To Kill a Mocking Bird with rare interviews, family archives, views of buildings in decay, and the endless Alabama highway, documenting things or images referencing the presence of African Americans in American culture.
The film was premiered at the Sundance Festival and also shown in Locarno, Denver and New York.
Skype Q&A with film director Travis Wilkerson will take place after the screening.
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?
Director Travis Wilkerson. USA, 2017. 90 minutes.