On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode to the top of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded. Fifty years after Americas first mass school shooting, director Keith Maitlands Tower reveals the untold stories of witnesses, heroes and survivors.
Tower innovatively blends archival footage, traditional interviews, and rotoscope-animated reenactments to capture the immediacy and panic of the day. The survivors, talking 50 years later, provide a fascinating contrast to their animated counterparts many are still grappling with trauma in the present. The film remarkably conveys not only the panic but also the sheer bewilderment that gripped those on the ground as the events were unfolding, in both the media and the police response units a confusion that seems unthinkable today. This culminates as Maitland links the events of August 1st, 1966 to our current school shooting climate, a connection he reflects on in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine:
I wanted to aim the film at young audiences that live under the threat of this kind of violence every time they head out the door to go to school. I wanted them to see these characters in 1966 like they were living here today. When I began, I was worried that wed be relegated into a history-only paradigm, but quickly realized that theres more than enough current relevance to this subject to make it transcend the fifty years [since it took place]. It speaks to people today. Thats the hope: that we can honor the past and spark a dialogue in the present.
Tower is that rarest of documentaries, seamlessly melding artistry and advocacy In Keiths brilliant filmic strategy, animation distances us from the numbing historical reality that began as a painful, unprecedented news event. Watching this graceful, immersive work of art, we let down our defenses to fully absorb the meaning of the nightmare and deeply feel the emotions of his characters. - Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorber
Gradually, the animated faces give way to real ones, as Tower transitions to the present day. Maitlands layered approach suggests Waltz With Bashir by way of Errol Morris, with its testimonies elevated by expressionistic effects. - Eric Kohn, Indiewire
a gripping dramatic reconstruction, a tribute to the heroes and the fallen, and inevitably an expression of nostalgia for the days when a mass shooting still had the power to shock. - Justin Chang, Variety
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