The Towers

1955 - 1955

Dir. , 16mm Color Sound 00:13:00

Page Contents


This is a sensitive poetic film record of the famous towers in Watts, California and their creator, Simon Rodilla [sic], made as he was in the final stages of their completion. The Eleventh Assembly of the International Association of Art Critics deemed these towers: '...a unique combination of sculpture and architecture and a paramount achievement of the 20th Century folk art in the United States'. While this film does exhibit the beauty of the Watts towers in all their splendor (prior to the damage that occurred after Rodilla [sic] left them), its purpose is really to explore the reasons why a humble tile-setter challenged the conformity of the mechanized society in which we live by devoting thirty years of his life to a dream. As such, the film touches deeply upon the need for man to find a way to express the creativity that arises out of his inner necessities, and transcends its obvious appeal to art and architecture audiences to reach the interest of individuals of all ages and backgrounds as an example of the strength of man's creative drive. PRESENTED AT: 1955 Venice, Edinburgh, and Golden Reel Festivals, VI International Design Conference at Aspen, 1957 Art in Cinema Festival, 'Omnibus', 'Huntley-Brinkley Report', BBC Television. 'I had it in my mind to build something great, and I did.' So spoke Simon Rodilla [sic] about his famous towers in Watts, California. This film is not so much the story of these towers as it is of Simon, the Italian immigrant tile-setter. His materials were the broken bottles and trash discarded by that society. This inspiring story shows what a man who is not afraid of dreaming impossible dreams can do with the simplest things of life.' - MEDIA FOR CHRISTIAN FORMATION. 'Almost anyone could make a beautiful documentary of the towers simply by aiming a camera - upward to the tallest (100 ft.) spire, downward at the tilted floor, sideways towards the labyrinth of sculptural constructions. Here, however, the filmmaker has also recorded the history of the hand-made Towers, and of the Italian-American tile-setter who toiled thirty-four years (1921-1954) to create them single-handedly in this spare time. The sound track records Rodilla [sic] commenting on the cause of his construction; and the screen shows him selecting stones, bits of glass, seashells and crockery; bending steel rods by wedging them under a nearby railroad track; and climbing up to the open-work towers with nothing but a bucket of concrete and a window washer's harness to work on what is now internationally known as the largest 'something' undertaken by any individual anywhere. This is an important film because, as short as it is, it is the only movie available on the Watts Towers of Simon Rodilla [sic]. It is a beautiful film as well; it couldn't help but be.' - AMERICAN ARTIST
[Source: Creative Film Society Catalog, 1975]

Other Credits

Music by Tom Cutkomp