Now Streaming in Austin: Tower
Keith Maitland's shocking, touching history of the UT shootings
By Richard Whittaker,
2:49PM, Sat. Aug. 1, 2020
Welcome to Now Streaming in Austin, highlighting locally made titles to watch while self-quarantining.
Sometimes it seems the blight of school shootings is a modern phenomenon. But the bloody massacre that forever changed the history and fabric of the UT Austin campus on Aug. 1, 1966, shows this curse is older than we sometimes think.
The story is sadly well-known. Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, then used the top of the UT tower as a sniper's nest, killing 13 people in cold blood before finally being shot himself by law enforcement.
As is so often the way with these horrors, the perpetrator overshadows the victims in common memory. But award-winning 2016 documentary Tower by Austin director Keith Maitland restores their legacies, and their humanity.
The Kickstarter-funded documentary merged archive footage, modern interviews, and rotoscoped recreations to take the day away from the shadow of the shooter, and give a voice to the students, citizens, and officers who survived and died that day. Building on Pamela Colloff's stunning 2006 story for Texas Monthly, "96 Minutes," Maitland refocused the story on the lives lost and saved, the moments of heroism and fear, that so often get overlooked. As Marc Savlov wrote in his four-and-a-half-star review, "Tower is all about the act, not the actor."
Make sure to read our interview with Maitland ("Drawn Together," Oct. 21, 2016) and with Craig Staggs of Austin-based animation studio Minnow Mountain (Who Did the Animation for Keith Maitland’s Documentary Tower?" March 25, 2016), who provided the film with the unique visual look.