Tower

Keith Maitland’s documentary Tower is a gripping account of the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas, in which 15 people died (including the shooter, Charles Whitman, who had earlier murdered his wife and his mother). It blends rotoscoped dramatisations of events with numerous eyewitness accounts and newsreel footage that was shot on the day, and the looseness of the animation technique seems apt when applied to a mid-1960s American campus  a politically-explosive place within a conservative state, for sure, but also somewhere right on the cusp of the hippie, psychedelic era. Maitland’s documentary captures the chaos of the morning as well as a film could possibly hope to, and the rotoscoping never once comes across as being a gimmick, which I had feared when I first heard about its use. If anything, when we eventually see the real footage of the survivors as they are today, near the end of the film, the fact that images of their faces have been withheld for so long seems to make their appearances doubly powerful and moving. Inventive and clear. (****)