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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Keith Maitland’s TOWER On Independent Lens

Keith Maitland’s intricately conceived and executed Tower, a hybrid, mixed-media documentary, takes advantage of the versatility and cost-effectiveness of animation to reflect on American’s first mass shooting at a school, from the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966, when thirteen were murdered and thirty wounded in ninety-six minutes. As with other experiments in the form, like Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, rotoscoped animation has the effect of bringing us both closer and removing us from the events, which are also shown in archival footage. (Richard Linklater’s Austin-made Waking Life is, of course, another important reference.)

[A clip: “Pregnant teenager remembers the moment she was shot.]

The mingling of real and unreal, depicting the events via first-person testimonies is dreamy, and it’s a nightmare. It’s also emotionally shattering, a feat of imagination, but also a feat of empathy. Animation allows the witnesses we hear to also remain  the age onscreen they were fifty years ago, innocent, hopeful, not yet under attack. Elemental yet expressionistic, Tower is an admirable attainment, a broadside from the solar plexus, and the powerhouse ending, partially narrated by Walter Cronkite commenting in the day, is magnificently measured. So much tenderness! So much humanity. Those ten minutes so heartfelt, affirmative, I cried.

[Debuts Tuesday, 14 February at 10pm in most markets.]

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“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
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“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
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