2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN?

Travis Wilkerson transforms an obscured incident from his family’s past into a singular documentary murder mystery performance.

Festival Section:
New Frontier

Sundance Program Description:

In 1946, SE 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?

Some Background:

  • Travis Wilkerson
    Past Sundance work:

    PLUTO DECLARATION (2012, short essay)
    FRAGMENTS OF DISSOLUTION (2012, short essay)
    SOAPBOX AGITATION #1: PROVING GROUND (2007, multimedia performance)
    WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN? (2005, narrative feature)
    AN INJURY TO ONE (2003, feature essay)

    Wilkerson’s approach to filmmaking is inspired by Cuban filmmaker Santiago Álvarez and the Third Cinema movement, rejecting both Hollywood commercialism and European art film auteur worship. His PROVING GROUND was the first instance of live art performance at the festival in the first year of the New Frontier section.

Why You Should Watch:
Sundance audiences will have only two opportunities to experience Wilkerson’s latest project, one which draws deeply from his own family history – it’s sure to be memorable.

More Info:
Artist Website

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.