In 1946, S.E. Branch—a white Southern racist, and the artist’s great-grandfather—murdered Bill Spann, a black man, in rural Alabama. The murder has become hushed and hidden family lore. When Wilkerson sets out to unravel the mystery, he encounters obstacle upon obstacle—destroyed records, everyone refusing to talk. He’s accused of bringing shame upon the family, shaking up old trouble nobody wants. Soon enough, his life is threatened too.
Performed in deep, intimate tones by Wilkerson, with home movies and his grandfather’s favorite rocking chair haunting the stage, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? is a radical new iteration of a “live documentary” that is part séance, part detective story, part horror story, and 100 percent American story. As the narrative unfolds, the discomfort becomes electric, and there is a feeling of real risk that spirits will be raised from the dead. What will the storyteller do? Will he sit in that chair? Will he own up to it?
A chance meeting in Havana with legendary Cuban film propagandist Santiago
Álvarez changed the course of Travis Wilkerson's life. He now makes films in the
tradition of the “third cinema,” wedding politics to form in an indivisible manner.
In 2015, Sight & Sound called Wilkerson “the political conscience of American