Review: ‘Tower’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

(USA, 94 min.)
Dir. Keith Maitland
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)


On August 1, 1966, University of Texas engineering student Charles Whitman took an elevator to the top of the school’s bell tower and opened fire on the square below, killing 16 and injuring dozens more over a time span of 96 minutes. Tower explores this event, America’s first mass school shooting, through animated interviews and archival footage that attempt to recreate the suspense felt by those involved. The film’s soundtrack features hit performers of the time, such as The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Mamas and the Papas, and Donovan. The music helps give a feel for the era, and the strength of the film lies in its painstakingly yet entertainingly recreation of this event.

The film succeeds in highlighting the many perspectives of those involved during that day, from those wounded by bullet fire to the policemen and citizens who helped eventually bring down the gunmen. The ensemble approach helps emphasize the community effort involved in the incident, where the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others. Yet, the film falls short in its effort to connect the event to larger issues of mass school shootings and gun control in America. It treats these issues as an afterthought, minimally highlighted in the film’s third act. Yet, Tower is a fascinating animated documentary thriller that’s innovative and ambitious.

Tower screens:
-Sunday, May 1 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9:30 PM
-Monday, May 2 at the Isabel Bader at 1:00 PM
-Friday, May 6 at Hart House at 3:15 PM


Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more


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