Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Screen 19 articles

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?

2017

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Poster
  • Wilkerson's approach—half art installation, half solemn true-crime podcast, read over shots of trees and empty storefronts—is more aggravating than lucid, withholding information and observations for dramatic effect. For someone so gloomily aware of his own privilege, Wilkerson spends a lot of the film playing dumb and speculating—a writer’s trick for giving shape to a piece with a thesis and no conclusion.

  • It’s an extraordinary personal documentary. . . . The idea that drives Wilkerson’s film is a powerful one, namely, that everyone’s private life and family traditions are inseparable from politics, from ideology, from history—and that the unwillingness to do the practical, intellectual, and emotional work to find out the specifics of those connections and to face up to them is both a form of privilege and a perpetuation of injustice.

  • Though Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? could be described as essayistic, it's also a surprising, discursive, form-expanding work of art. . . . Only one element of the film — an entreaty to recognize the specific names of slain black men and women — doesn't carry over as forcefully from performance piece to documentary, but Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? remains a searing, one-of-a-kind creation.

  • In conducting this filmic exorcism, Wilkerson generates a wealth of incidental material that falls outside the purview of Spann's story.

  • When I first saw Travis Wilkerson’s intense, mesmerizing, and heartbreaking Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, it didn’t yet technically count as a film: He narrated the work live and personally cued the images and audio as he proceeded. . . . That work is now a contained film all its own, and I am happy (happy?) to report that it has lost none of its discomfiting, embittered power.

  • With stylistic flair to burn in service to its point, the film still couldn’t be further from the kind of feel-good film that tends to close a festival; and it was a brave choice with which to send us back out into our troubled times. Celebrate, and regenerate your common energies – but don’t let a bubble of complacent hedonism close your eyes, this bookending suggested.

  • For the most part, Locarno’s competition lineup was blessed with entries that were both aesthetically and politically challenging. Travis Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? is a case in point. . . . Wilkerson avoids mere liberal guilt and self-flagellation by refusing to see Branch as an unfortunate aberration. His task is to connect the dots between his own family’s personal anguish and the shameful American legacy of white supremacy.

  • [Wilkerson,] understandably affected by his personal involvement in the story he is narrating, seems to sacrifice political analysis in favour of an emotional duel with his family’s demons. That being said, the film by no means replicates the reactionary banality and political correctness within which the discourse around race is conducted in the US. Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? digs deep into the metastasis of racial discrimination to expose how far into the fabric of society it reaches.

  • A far more unsettling family portrait can be found in another Spotlight selection: “Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?” ...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.

  • Another multilayered essay, Travis Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun? is abrasive and confrontational, the director playing the hard boiled narrator-detective with particular effectiveness.

  • Originally conceived as a performance piece, Wilkerson's latest leftist remembrance project loses very little in the transition to single-channel video, and it arguably gains the focus that comes along with one sole point of attention. This is also one of Wilkerson's most powerful works -- easily his best since An Injury to One, largely because of the personal stakes. Rather than identifying an oppressive bogeyman out in the world, Wilkerson looks inward, interrogating his own family history.

  • I knew this would not be legible to me as a work of art when it became apparent that Wilkerson's narration would never deviate from a tone of blistering contempt. He is a self-professed radical who won't hesitate to use deceptive rhetoric so long as it serves his political purposes.

  • The bit at the very end about whiteness incinerating the world is perhaps over the top, but the extent to which Wilkerson acknowledges his original-sin complicity, even as he endeavors to restore the mere existence of someone who's been tossed down American history's memory hole, is bracing.

  • Like other Wilkerson films, Did You Wonder brings to bear a strong compositional eye, graphic overlays, a voice-over suffused with skeptical anger, and muscular music choices on the excavation of a buried legacy of violence executed in the name of power—but Wilkerson’s live presence/performance also distinguishes this project from previous ones in a number of essential ways...

  • Unable to divorce himself from his own complicity in this ongoing story, Wilkerson forcefully prompts one of the most powerful reckonings in recent American cinema. The director is said to be preparing a single-channel version of the film for wider distribution considerations, a noble and necessary step to get this humbling work in front of as many people as possible. It remains to be seen how the film will play in this new context; but seen live, it’s an experience all but impossible to shake.

  • While Claire Simon’s retrospective registered as the defining moment of True/False 2017, a host of other diverse works from around the world proved that the term documentary is constantly being redefined. Travis Wilkerson’s singular film projection/live performance entitled Did You Know Who Fired the Gun? is a prime example of the medium’s malleability.

  • Even while reclaiming a forgotten piece of history, Wilkerson’s anguish as someone desperately aware of his family history and inability to truly rectify same makes a greater impression than any potential momentary catharsis. But does the gesture itself backfire in a plea for applause and forgiveness? I’d argue that unambiguous, bracing self-excoriation productively and sincerely shows how the inability to really do anything with that testimony.

  • Nothing could be further from VR than the direct, quietly confrontational, human-to-human power of Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? For twenty years, Wilkerson, one of the most rigorous and intelligent American documentarians, has been making films that interrogate the malevolent effects of capitalism on the American Dream, often digging up long-buried crimes to show how they continue to shape our lives... Grief and anger are palpable in the images, music, and texts that comprise the film.

  • Did You Wonder is the first of Wilkerson's films that I've seen, but I was immediately taken by his digressive essayistic style, which mixes archival and home footage, talking heads interviews (filmed in crisp black-and-white) and his severe, yet soothing voice (lent a certain immediacy by the occasional slip of a syllable or unintentionally prolonged pause).

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