Tower is one of the most original and effective documentaries I have ever seen. It even takes the now-familiar ingredient of animation as a storytelling tool and gives it an unexpected twist.
Texas-raised filmmaker Keith Maitland wanted to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of an incident that was unthinkable in its time. On August 1, 1966, a young man climbed to the top of the bell tower overlooking the University of Texas campus in Austin and opened fire on dozens of innocent people. This horrifying and unexplainable incident made a lasting mark on everyone who was there that day: students, victims, reporters, eyewitnesses, and passers-by. None of them will ever forget that hellish lunchtime when time seemed to stand still. Some still bear emotional scars from that event.
Out of this drama, Maitland has crafted a galvanizing film, combining first-hand interviews with TV news footage and snapshots. It is only toward the end of the film that he shows us the real people who have been telling their stories in animated form…and in so doing, reveals his sleight-of-hand. We’ve been watching “eyewitnesses” who were frozen in time from 1966: the words are theirs but they have been spoken by young actors.
As past and present begin to merge, the emotional power of the film rises to a crescendo. I don’t want to describe any more, except to say that the movie left me shattered. Needless to say, it is also timely and relevant. Whether we’re talking about fictional filmmaking or documentaries, Tower is one of the best films of the year.