Tower (2016 film)

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Tower (2016 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKeith Maitland
Based on"96 Minutes"
by Pamela Colloff
Produced by
  • Keith Maitland
  • Susan Thomson
  • Megan Gilbride
  • Keith Maitland
  • Sarah Wilson
Edited byAustin Reedy
Music byOssei Essed
Distributed byKino Lorber
Release dates
  • March 13, 2016 (2016-03-13) (SXSW)
  • September 28, 2016 (2016-09-28) (US)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$101,987[1]

Tower is a 2016 American mostly-animated documentary film about the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas at Austin directed and produced by Keith Maitland.[2]

The film follows the shooting from the perspectives of several survivors, recreating their recounts via actors filmed and later animated in rotoscoping.[3] The film premiered on March 13, 2016, at South by Southwest, before receiving a limited release by Kino Lorber in the United States on September 28, 2016.[4][1] It was later aired on television on the PBS series Independent Lens.


On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower in Austin, Texas and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand what had happened. Archival footage[5][6] is combined with rotoscopic animation in a dynamic, never-before-seen way to illustrate the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors.[7]


The film is based on a 2006 Texas Monthly article by Pamela Colloff, "96 Minutes."[4] Maitland originated from New Jersey and attended UT Austin.[8] Maitland read the article in 2006 and asked Colloff to have lunch with him. He suggested making a film about the incident during the meeting.[9] Colloff became one of the executive producers of the film.[4] Various University of Texas students worked on the film as interns.[9]

To finance the film the creators opened an Indiegogo, generating almost $70,000 from over 330 people in six weeks.[9] In the final few days alumni of UT offered up a matching grant.[10]

Early on, Maitland realized that he and his team likely would not be able to film reenactments on the University campus, so they instead decided to opt for an animated aesthetic "to show the geography of the campus."[11] Footage was mostly shot in Maitland's backyard and then animated by production company Minnow Mountain who was aided by pictures Maitland had shot around campus.[12] Over 100 people were interviewed including at-the-time media members, police, students, and faculty, who had witnessed the events, but a few selective interviews were used.[9]


On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 100 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Tower probes into a painful chapter of American history with sensitivity and grace -- and revisits its events from a valuable new perspective."[13] Justin Chang of Variety wrote that the film is "a uniquely cinematic memorial that will be in demand from programmers and buyers as the 50th anniversary of the shootings approaches."[14]

It also won numerous Best Documentary awards, including at the 2016 Austin Film Critics Association[15][16][17] and the 2018 News & Documentary Emmy Awards.[18]


  1. ^ a b "Tower (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  2. ^ Whittaker, Richard. "Kickstart Your Weekend: 'Tower'." Austin Chronicle. April 10, 2014. Retrieved on March 31, 2016.
  3. ^ Roger Ebert
  4. ^ a b c Colloff, Pamela. "The Reckoning." Texas Monthly. March 2016.
  5. ^ "Archival Film in TOWER (2016)". Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  6. ^ "TOWER & The Texas Archive of the Moving Image". Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  7. ^ Tower (2016) Film Screening|Institute for Public Health|Washington University in St. Louis
  8. ^ Ricke, Claire. "Documentary depicts UT Tower shooting marking historic moment in Austin." KXAN. March 14, 2016. Retrieved on March 31, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d Sliva, Vanessa. "'Tower' shows 1966 shooting from ground." The Daily Texan. May 1, 2014. Retrieved on March 1, 2016.
  10. ^ Tower documentary gets boost from UT alumni." KXAN. April 21, 2014. Retrieved on April 1, 2016.
  11. ^ Laffly, Thomas (16 March 2016). "Director Keith Maitland on Exploring The Country's First Mass School Shooting in Tower". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  12. ^ Newman, Jason (14 October 2016). "How Animated Doc 'Tower' Explores Nation's First Mass School Shooting". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Tower (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. 12 October 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  14. ^ Chang, Justin. "SXSW Film Review: ‘Tower’." Variety. March 15, 2016. Retrieved on March 31, 2016.
  15. ^ 2016 Awards - Austin Film Critics Association
  16. ^ The Arbalest and Tower take top prizes at 2016 SXSW film festival|Film|The Guardian
  17. ^ Calgary Film
  18. ^ "Independent Lens Wins Two 2018 News & Documentary Emmys: TOWER and Forever Pure". Independent Lens. Retrieved 2020-11-19.

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