Saturday, November 3, 2018

Bill Spann

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (2017) - Wilkerson
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Travis Wilkerson is, for lack of a better term, an investigative experimental filmmaker. His films largely concern with the buried, sordid American past. His film, An Injury to One, about a murdered union activist in the turn of the 20th century had a deep connection with me at the time and therefore was a fascinating watch. With Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun, he unflinchingly delves into his racist family history where his great granddad got away with killing a black man in 1940s Alabama. As usual, he goes on about it with his dry, raspy voiceover, words over images, split screen and old home movies as well as static/driving shots of places.

Wilkerson starts with clips from To Kill a Mockingbird, announcing that the film is not a white savior movie. Throughout the film, he self-consciously traverses Alabama, making a point that he is a white man with a movie camera digging up a forgotten murder story of a black man. As usual, even after 4 years of research into the subject, and even though it's his own family's history, there is no real resolution to the film. The truth in what happened to the powerless will be erased from history and completely forgotten. It's a timely film because with a racist buffoon being in charge, the racist rhetoric right now is truly alarming.

His name was Bill Spann. Wilkerson is nowhere near to find out what really happened, but finds Spann's final resting place in an unmarked grave in Louisville Alabama with the tip from a local woman who fears for her safety by just talking to him. Yes, the violence and racism is still rampant in the south and everywhere nowadays. Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? bears witness to those who were victims of racist violence and serves as a reminder that they all had names.