Genuine Animation: Our Review of ‘Tower’

Posted in Hot Docs 2016, Movies, Theatrical by - October 14, 2016
Genuine Animation: Our Review of ‘Tower’

Too many times out there in the cinematic universe, animation gets mistaken as something that is just for kids and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  As a tool in storytelling it can allow for things to become all the more poignant then they already are.  In the new documentary Tower we get dropped right into the middle of the terrifying story that shattered the innocence of a nation with a type of violence that still rings throughout that great nation now 50 years later.

It was August 1st 1966, when a sniper rode the elevator all the way to the top of the iconic and now infamous University of Texas Tower and began to open fire.  No one and everyone was the target as the shooter was targeting people at random and for 96 minutes a city was gripped in fear like no other time in American history.  Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation we witness the dramatic events of the day, based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes and survivors, in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy, highlighting the visceral reality of the moment and all the emotions that go with it.

While hyperbole always gets a little overblown in this business, I can’t say enough how Tower gets better and better with every single time that it passes in front of my eyes.

Director Keith Maitland has crafted something that is epic in scope and power while managing to remain intimate and personal all at the same time.  Shooting a standard recreation of these events would have come off as callous and allowed the film to ultimately descend into the ranks of just another run of the mill true crime documentary that get produced as often as the sun rises and sets these days.  Using the rotoscoping technique really does maximize the film allowing for the emotional impact of these events to sink in, allowing us to find the rawness of it all rather than just feeling morbid for watching a re-enactment of a crime unfold.

The story we see, is the one of those who was actually there and he allows for their voices to be heard and to drive the narrative.  If they had shoe-horned in a separate and potentially dispassionate voice to tell this story it could have been cold and perfunctory, Maitland pulls the genuine emotions out of this event as we see what a formative experience it was for everyone who was there, for better or for worse.  People who have never been in a life or death crisis always SAY what they would do if in this scenario, but this is the cold proof of what you are or what you hope to be as human being and in these scenarios the answers always come out.  It’s fascinating that Maitland allows to not only be sympathetic for the gunshot victim baking on the hot concrete but the person who just couldn’t muster up the courage to risk their lives to help them.  He allows us to see the damage that was inflected on these people that goes beyond the physical, this event psychologically change everyone who bore witness to it.

While I’ll admit that something like Tower just won’t be on everyone’s radar, it damn well should be because it is hands down one of the more compelling and engaging films of the entire year.

  • Release Date: 10/14/2016
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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