Many times while watching the new documentary, Tower, the viewer is reminded how far the world has progressed in the absolute wrong direction. This is pertaining to how commonplace gun violence is in civilian life – something that, fifty years ago when the events of this film transpire, seems like a very new and rare occurrence. In a rarely used practice of filmmaking, director Keith Maitland gives an eyewitness account of a tragic day in the history of the University Of Texas, which includes scenes of absolute human horror, unfathomable loss and astonishing bravery in the face of completely random danger.
Tower tells the story of one hot day in Texas in 1966 when a man ascended the tower on campus and started open fire with a rifle. When the day was over and the man was taken down, fourteen people were dead and thirty-two were wounded. Using a beautiful looking rotoscoping animation, the events of that day are told by victims, bystanders and the media coverage that was conducted that day, creating a deep mosaic of a story that might have faded in the public’s mind after the many university, college and high school shootings that have happened since.
Right away, this film reminded me of the 2008 Oscar nominated film, Waltz With Bashir, given its eye-popping animation style that sets it apart from any other historical documentary. The only footage we see without this added effect is the actual newsreel archive pieces, which include on-scene interviews and real audio of the gunshots going off. Even with the roto animation, the weight of the heavy losses that day, including police officers rushing to the scene, are hard hitting and almost make you sick to your stomach.
There is a bit of optimism to this film which almost comes across as completely unexpected, pertaining to one of the victims who survived. This woman was pregnant at the time she was shot and eventually lost the baby due to her injuries, yet has no real ill intention towards the shooter, who also killed the father of the child that day. It was a bright spot of the human spirit within a bleak event that snuffed out over a dozen lives in an afternoon. If you’re into very impactful documentaries, then this one is for you. Definitely one of the better documentaries at Vancouver International Film Festival. 4/5