Travis Wilkerson performs Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?
Los Angeles Filmforum and Acropolis Cinema present
Travis Wilkerson performs Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?
Tuesday, July 23, 2019, 8:00 pm
At the Velaslavasay Panorama, 1122 W 24th St, Los Angeles, CA 90007
The Los Angeles premiere of the film, in a rare (and possibly the last) live performance version!
Travis Wilkerson in person!
One of the leading non-fiction filmmakers today, Travis Wilkerson returns to Los Angeles Filmforum for the Los Angeles premiere of his widely-praised feature film Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Originally developed in part as a live performance, the film now is distributed normally, but we will be presenting it with Wilkerson performing it live again in what may well be the last time he does so!
A bracing excavation of family history, white supremacy, and the widespread traumas generated by the criminal treatment of African-Americans in America’s past and present, Wilkerson renders an ugly and irredeemable episode from his family’s past into a radical form of poetic activist cinema. A haunting continuation of his remarkable series of films stretching back to the deeply affecting masterwork An Injury to One,
“Directed by the resolutely independent American filmmaker Travis Wilkerson, this nonfiction movie recounts the 1946 murder of a black man by one of his white relatives. Serving as the movie’s narrator — and making the expressive most of his deep, darkly insinuating sepulchral voice — Mr. Wilkerson sifts through the personal and the political, travels down eerily lonely Alabama byways and deep into anguished history. The result is 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 [it] and not get shivers up your spine - from fear, from anger, and from the beauty of Wilkerson's filmmaking." - Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice
“More than a mining of the director’s ugly family history, it’s closer to a public exorcism, in which Wilkerson personally owns up to the sins of his kin while symbolically standing in for the sins of his country and race.” — Eric Hynes, Film Comment
“One of the most powerful reckonings in recent American cinema.” - Jordan Cronk Sight and Sound
“Genre-expanding... It fills the current American landscape with the hatred, oppression, and violence that also scars its history. In effect, the film’s story is of the ongoing political cover-ups that amplify ongoing political crimes, the S. E. Branches who are living today and the Bill Spanns who are dying. It’s an enormous story, one that, in the telling, nearly effaces Wilkerson’s presence onstage. With the documentary’s many byways of unresolved family conflict and stifled memory, it could be twice its seventy-minute running time, but Wilkerson’s purpose appears to be less a matter of personal history than of personal confrontation with history—and a quest for the personal basis of political action.” — Richard Brody, The New Yorker
About the Filmmaker:
A chance meeting in Havana with legendary Cuban film propagandist Santiago Alvarez 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 cinema.” His films have screened at scores of venues and festivals worldwide, including Sundance, Toronto, Locarno, Rotterdam, Vienna, Yamagata, the FID Marseille and the Musée du Louvre. The NY Times called his most recent film Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? “an urgent, often corrosive look at America’s past and present through the prism of family, patriarchy, white supremacy and black resistance.” His writings on film have appeared in Cineaste, Kino!, and Senses of Cinema. He has taught filmmaking at the University of Colorado, CalArts, Pomona College, and Vassar. He is also the founding Editor of “Now: A Journal of Urgent Praxis.”
Tickets: $12 general; $6 students (with ID); free for Filmforum & Velaslavasay Panorama Members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at https://wilkerson.bpt.me or at the door.
For more information: www.lafilmforum.org or 323-377-7238. Also see www.acropoliscinema.com
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?
2017, color, sound, 90 minutes
Director, writer, cinematographer, editor: Travis Wilkerson
Travis Wilkerson on the live performance, excerpted from an interview in Hyperallergic, by Craig Hubert:
I came to the project in a very roundabout way. I had received a grant from Creative Capital to work on this project and they have a central element in their process where, on two different occasions, you come to what they call retreats and you’re one of some 20 to 40 different artists, maybe even slightly more than that, who present these seven-minute excerpts of their work. They prefer some version of live sharing with images accompanying as opposed to simply showing a clip from a film, for example. And when I went to it and started watching others, I quickly realized why — in that room, with a person sharing, in the same physical space as you, it had a different electric charge than the people who were showing a clip and sitting down. It had a completely different presence. So on the first retreat, I had prepared a short little voice over and at a certain point, I got emotional. It was the first time I had even presented the project in any kind of context publicly, and I was in this big room with all these people. I started spontaneously leading those who would participate in a chant of the man’s name who was killed, Bill Spann. It was very abrupt and I don’t even know now what lead me to do it, but as soon as I sat down, I knew it did something different. It’s a different kind of commitment on the part of the artist to be in the room and make the proclamation with sincerity.
The following year, I had to do it again. I planned to just show a clip, but the audio didn’t work because of some mistake I made while uploading her material. I had to make a voice over again, but this time without any notes. It was completely spontaneous, and it had, again, this effect of opening it up for me. So then I thought, let’s see what happens if I try to do the entire thing that way. I did it at a few film festivals, where it was closer to two hours and physically very, very tiring. It’s tiring and weird and you feel embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t enjoy it at all; I found it very humbling and humiliating. I turned to the single-channel version simply because there was no way for me to keep doing it like that. It was the only way for me to disseminate it more broadly. I think the film does its own thing and gives people a little more space to get frustrated and disagree because I’m not in the room and challenging them. It’s more open to the viewer, perhaps, but less charged.
For the full interview, see