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Quebec Premiere
  • USA
  • 2016
  • 94 mins
  • DCP
  • English
Fantasia’s screening on August 1st will be followed by a panel discussion organized by Meaghan Hennegan, survivor of the 2006 Dawson College Shooting, featuring speakers from Polytechnique, Dawson College and CTV News, with more participants to be announced shortly.

Winner: Best Documentary Feature, SXSW 2016; Grand Jury Prize, Dallas International Film Festival 2016; Audience Award, RiverRun Film Festival 2016
Official Selection: Hot Docs 2016

“A uniquely cinematic memorial… powerfully channels the terror and confusion of that terrible August day while also achieving the weight and authority that can only come with time and distance.” - Justin Chang, VARIETY

TOWER SXSW World Premiere Trailer from keith maitland on Vimeo.

On the morning of August 1, 1966, Austin’s University of Texas campus abruptly became a place of horror when a heavily armed psychopath positioned himself on an observation deck of the school’s clock tower and, for the 90 minutes that followed, opened fire at every living thing in his sights. By the end, 16 were dead and three dozen wounded before the gunman, 25-year-old ex-Marine Charles Whitman, was overtaken and killed.

Director Keith Maitland constructs TOWER as a hyper-cinematic oral history of sorts, with young actors reading interview transcriptions from survivors of the massacre in voice-over, set to an inspired combination of artfully animated recreations, newsreel footage, photographs and rotoscoped depictions of the speakers themselves. He uses these devices to brilliant effect, telling the story in near real-time, plunging the viewer into the centre of absolute panic, chaos and fear as the situation unfolds with gripping immediacy.

Most fascinating are recent statements given by survivors, conducted nearly fifty years after their ordeal, now blessed with a lifetime of wisdom and experience to reflect upon the trauma that befell them as they were just entering adulthood so many moons ago. Watching the film, it’s impossible not to mourn for the innocence of the story’s era, when the very idea of a school shooting was an unimaginable horror to the world. TOWER is a powerful and harrowing experience that strives to bring us to a better place of understanding and collective healing. It is also a story of everyday heroes that will give you faith in human nature even while being forced to contemplate the worst that humanity has to offer.

— Mitch Davis