Kino Lorber has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Keith Maitland’s animated documentary “Tower,” which won SXSW’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for best documentary feature.

The film explores the tragic story of America’s first mass school shooting, where lone gunman Charles Whitman climbed a clock tower at the University of Texas in 1966, shooting 49 people and killing 17.

Kino Lorber will release “Tower” on Oct. 12 at New York’s Film Forum, to be followed by a national rollout, marking the 50th anniversary of the shooting. The company is also mounting an aggressive awards campaign for the documentary.

“Tower,” executive produced by Meredith Vieira and Luke Wilson, had its world premiere at SXSW in March. It has won awards at festivals including Dallas International, Montclair, RiverRun, and DeadCenter Film Festival.

Director Keith Maitland mixes archival footage with rotoscopic animation to create a dynamic, never-before-seen combination. Variety named Keith Maitland to its list of “10 Documakers to Watch.”

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Justin Chang said in his SXSW review for Variety that the film is “…a gripping dramatic reconstruction, a tribute to the heroes and the fallen, and inevitably an expression of nostalgia for the days when a mass shooting still had the power to shock.”

Producers include Megan Gilbride and Susan Thomson. Executive producers are Steve Eckelman, Amy Rapp, Sandy Boone, Louis Black, Pamela Colloff and Lois Vossen.

“Tower is that rarest of documentaries, seamlessly melding artistry and advocacy,” said Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorber, “In Keith’s brilliant filmic strategy animation distances us from the numbing historical reality that began as a painful unprecedented news event. Watching this graceful, immersive work of art, we let down our defenses to fully absorb the meaning of the nightmare and deeply feel the emotions of his characters.”

Linzee Troubh of Cinetic negotiated the sale with Kino Lorber’s Wendy Lidell. Cinetic will launch international sales for the film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.