Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?

United States / 2017 / 70 minutes / NR

Formally audacious and emotionally powerful: a meditation on conscience and responsibility, in the context of a documentary on race in the American South, as well as a highly personal exhumation of family secrets that may include a double murder. Travis Wilkerson begins with a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, and introduces a “secular saint,” Atticus Finch, but reminds us that Harper Lee’s story was fiction, “whereas mine is true.” He continues: “In 1946, my great-grandfather murdered a black man named Bill Spann and got away with it.” His movie is a detective story with important roles played by the filmmaker’s aunt (a Southern secessionist), by a 31-year-old local activist named Rosa Parks, by the rap song “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monáe, and by the still-resonant words of a Phil Ochs song that memorializes white activist William Moore. (Synopsis courtesy of Film Forum.)

  • Director

    Travis Wilkerson

  • Producer

    Travis Wilkerson

  • "An urgent, often corrosive look at America’s past and present through the prism of family, patriarchy, white supremacy and black resistance.”

    — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
  • "It’s hard not to experience Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? and not get shivers up your spine — from fear, from anger, and from the beauty of Wilkerson’s filmmaking."

    — BIlge Ebiri, The Village Voice
  • "One of the strongest works at a chilling Sundance Film Festival. Wilkerson doesn’t offer an answer. But raising the question — at this moment when families are torn apart by what they believe America is and should be — is more than enough."

    — Amy Taubin, Artforum
  • "Travis Wilkerson comes from the school of cinematic self-inquiry. His latest, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, the unequivocal highlight of this year’s True/False, takes this approach further – and to greater heights – than ever before

    — Jordan Cronk, Sight & Sound
  • "In effect, a travelogue of the history of racism — and that history rushes into the present day. An overwhelming experience."

    — Richard Brody, The New Yorker