After a jury acquitted the killer of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, in 2013, a similar event weighed on filmmaker and artist Travis Wilkerson’s mind: the 1946 murder of Bill Spann, a Black southerner from Alabama. This event ultimately became the subject of Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, a work that spans across form (a documentary film, one of the best of last year, originally conceived as a live performance) and genre (noir mystery and Southern Gothic horror). Spann’s murderer, a White man named S.E. Branch, was not only an unrepentant criminal and racist, but also the artist’s great-grandfather. This revelation compels Wilkerson to travel to his family’s hometown in Alabama and investigate the circumstances of the murder as well as the institutional indifference that resulted in his great-grandfather facing no consequences for his crime.
A disquieting work about generational complicity and white supremacy, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? is an emotionally raw and unsparing portrayal of racial trauma and systemic injustice, offering little in the way of neat resolutions or personal redemption. Presented by LA Filmforum and Acropolis Cinema, it makes its Los Angeles premiere this coming Tuesday in what is likely to be the artist’s final live reading and performance of the film.
When: Tuesday, July 23, 8pm (Tickets here)
Where: Velaslavasay Panorama (1122 West 24th Street, Los Angeles, California)
More info at the Velaslavasay Panorama.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date of the Los Angeles premiere of Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? The reference has been corrected.