Tower stands as a proud example of how documenting humanity’s worst moments will always show humanity at its best. This moving film sidesteps typical breakdowns of killer Charles Whitman’s identity and motivation, and instead focuses on the bravery Austin residents showed that day in 1966. Consequently, what could have been a bleak documentary is inspiring and motivating – without minimising the horror of this historic incident.
Alongside archive footage of the shooting, director Keith Maitland has recreated the day through rotoscope animation, reenacted by actors based on interviews with those involved – the footage of which is also animated and interspersed into the film. The effect is jarring at first, but becomes incredibly immersive, and allows for some surreal moments as interviewees share their fragmented memories of the shooting.
Largely the information in Tower is presented without comment – bar one chilling montage of news footage since the incident. While this event in isolation is certainly powerful, a further breakdown as to how this first shooting has practically influenced America since 1966 feels warranted, and a missed opportunity by the filmmakers. Similarly, deeper topics are mentioned – such as race relations, second amendment controversies, toxic masculinities – but passed by. The focus of Tower is profound and laudable, but more insight into these areas would be enlightening.
As the events of August 1st conclude, the boundaries between past and present break down, and we see the real faces behind these events. Tower then finds a second purpose in providing healing for those involved, as they come to terms with this landmark event, alongside us.
A fascinating and harrowing story told with style and respect, Tower is an unmissable snapshot of American history, told through the eyes of some inspiring heroes. A towering testament to the value of the documentary indeed.
CAST: Violett Beane, Louie Arnette, Blair Jackson, Monty Muir
DIRECTOR: Keith Maitland
SYNOPSIS: Nearly 50 years ago, a gunman rode the elevator to the 27th floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire. Tower, an animated and action-packed documentary, shares the untold story of that day – when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.