Revelation Film Festival Picks: Tower

Director: Keith Maitland


On 1 August, 1966, in Austin, Texas, a man with a high powered air rifle is shooting at everyone within the vicinity of the clock tower of the University of Texas. Residents are warned to stay away from the area.

It was America's first ever gun massacre that shocked the entire land. Sadly it would not be the last.

Tower is a dcoumentary that attempts to re-tell the chaos of that one summer day from those who found themselves caught up in the circumstances of the events, from the students who were enjoying the prime of their lives, and each recount those events from their perspectives, five decades later.

Tower is rendered in an animated, roto-scoping style, in the vein of that of Waltz with Bashir (the art style in that is often confused with rotoscoping), and Persepolis. Tower however doesn’t go all in on the animation, choosing to blend archival footage of the time alongisde the animated parts, and then also featuring the interviewees themselves in the present day. This style can be quite effective and sometimes produces a visual look that can be memorable- Tower will certainly be remembered for this part at least.

The delivery of the film is almost therapeutic (and some of the interviewees did it themselves for therapeutic reasons amongst others)- aside from a few gun shot sounds, the movie exudes silence for the most part. In a gives us the environment to ponder about the events that took place, and to simply listen to someone’s story. The documentary’s narrative is more about trying to recapture that chaos, but its presented in a linear chronology- and that it’s a both drama of the situation, and an examination into people who are caught up in a life or death situation.

Aside from being an account about the incident itself- Tower is as much about the tiny little slices of everyday America, that makes up the much larger fabric of that idea- which is presented in a colourful, almost nostalgic manner as we know through a collective cultural lens- so think white picket fences and paper boys doing delivery runs in the suburbs on their bicycles. There are equally as many hints of the nascent Sixties’ counter-culture that was in full swing at the time.

Tower is a rare kind of film. It will not make you happy or outraged. But it will only merely leave you pondering about things beyond ourselves, and things beyond our control.

(Sessions for Tower: Sat 8th 12:45 pm, Sat 18th, 8:30 pm @ Luna Leederville)

Clayton Lin