Tower (Maitland, 2016)

Tower documents the 96 minutes of utter hell that was unleashed on the University of Texas at Austin on August 1st, 1966. A lone gunman perched atop the observation deck of the university’s clock tower started shooting people who were within his range. The lives of students, faculty, and other bystanders were endangered during the frightening ordeal, and now the survivors are able to relive the horrific day. They include a pregnant woman who lost both her unborn baby and boyfriend in the hail of bullets; the young man who, dressed all in black during that sweltering day, courageously helped to move her out of harm’s way; a Hispanic paperboy who was hit on his bicycle; and the policemen who eventually entered the tower and took the gunman down. Rotoscopic animation brings the tale to heartrending life in a way that’s both tasteful and still shockingly immediate, just a little over 50 years after the events took place.

I admired the fact that the filmmakers chose to turn their focus from the killer when documentaries of this sort tend to devote a large amount of time on the perpetrator. There’s only a short little bit towards the end, but otherwise the spotlight is on the heroes and victims. The only thing I wish they could have said more about is the university’s response to the tragedy; I read a bit after watching this and learned that the school was reluctant to acknowledge it until only recently. It would have made for an interesting coda and added something to the discourse on how people process trauma.

This is good work, though. Very memorable, very moving, and without an ounce of unnecessary fat.