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Keith Maitland’s documentary “Tower” showcased at the 22nd Cucalorus Film Festival

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This past November at the 22nd Cucalorus Film Festival one of the films I had the pleasure of seeing was Keith Maitland’s documentary “Tower.” The film is about the first American mass shooting that occurred at the University of Texas in Austin. On August 1st, 1966, a man planted himself on top of UT Austin Tower and opened fire on students and people in the area. “Tower” is about the victims of the shooting and how they banded together to face a greater evil. “Tower” is a very moving and unique film that packs a spectacular emotional punch.

“Tower” uses rotoscope animation and archival footage to tell audiences of the events that took place on August 1st, 1966 on UT Austin’s campus. Rotoscope animation can be seen in films such as “Waking Life” (2001) and “A Scanner Darkly” (2006).

Through the use of his animation, Maitland successfully causes the audience to empathize with the characters. If only archival footage was used, along with real interviews, the audience would not have felt as strongly for the characters as they do when animated. The audience becomes submerged in the story when animation accompanies the use of archival footage. A great emotional distance would have been created between the audience and the film if only animation was used. Even though the audience knows that everything that happens in the film is real, there still would have been a sense of separation from reality.

Maitland’s choice to use rotoscope animation gave him the ability to call upon real actors to help him tell survivors’ stories as they recall the Texas Tower shooting. In the film, Maitland had actors perform the interviews that he previously conducted with the real survivors. The performers acted as the survivors at the time of the incident. It appeared as if the animated interviews had occurred within weeks of the tragedy. Through the use of this technique, Maitland was able to create intense emotional impact through his actors that otherwise could not have been achieved. Violett Beane stands in as the animated version of Claire Wilson and knocks her performance out of the park. Through her performance, Beane captivates the audience and they rally behind her character.

Emotions are flowing with Maitland’s strategic use of animation, and they become even more powerful when juxtaposed with non-animated footage. One by one, the real survivors are methodically revealed to the audience as the film comes to a close. Their experiences emanate with the audience as they feel their pain throughout the film. I have never seen a documentary that is as emotionally moving as “Tower.”

“Tower” is a spectacular film and a film that everyone should consider checking out. The film’s animation is astounding and the story is told in such an engaging, impactful way by Maitland. This was the best viewing experience I had by far at Cucalorus this year. “Tower” was one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen at Cucalorous, and one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It was very sad to see “Tower” get completely robbed of an Oscar nomination this year.

“Tower” is now available online to rent on services such as Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and VUDU. I highly recommend renting it!

For more information about “Tower,”, visit its website.

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The news site of UNC Wilmington
Keith Maitland’s documentary “Tower” showcased at the 22nd Cucalorus Film Festival