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Total Running Time: 87 minutes


The feature length documentary on the Watts Towers

Written, Directed and Produced by:

Edward Landler and Brad Byer

"One of the 20 best documentaries about Los Angeles" - Dan Schindel

Recognized in Variety as “the most complete visual account of Rodia and his masterpiece,” I  Build the Tower has been praised by Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight as “a lyrical look at the South Los Angeles masterpiece” and by film critic Leonard Maltin as “a heartfelt and fascinating film, entertaining and illuminating.” 

With Rodia great-nephew Brad Byer's exclusive access to family members and materials (including audiotapes of Rodia himself) and independent filmmaker Edward Landler's long association with the Watts community, the film draws together the story of this uncommon "common man" and his extraordinary creation.  Production has included shooting in Rodia's southern Italian birthplace, in the San Francisco Bay area where Rodia lived before and after his years in Los Angeles, and, of course, in Watts itself where the towers stand as a unique embodiment of natural structural principles.


The music for the film – based on aria themes by Giuseppe Verdi – has been arranged for classical orchestra and ensemble by Robert Israel and for jazz ensemble by Nate Morgan.  Bass player Nedra Wheeler and vocalist Dwight Trible are featured in Morgan’s ensemble.  There is also a hip-hop song – conceived and arranged by Byer and Landler – with Rodia himself as lead vocalist and music composed and arranged by Michael Abels.


[Track 9]    Orchestral arrangement of the Prelude from La Traviata



[Track 12]  Jazz arrangement of ‘La Donna e Mobile’ from Rigoletto



[Track 16]  The Rodia Rap



Critical Praise for  I BUILD THE TOWER


The feature-length documentary film on the

Watts Towers in South Central Los Angeles


“A heartfelt and fascinating film… entertaining and illuminating…”

- Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight


“The filmmakers stunningly capture the beauty of the towers piercing the azure sky…”                                     

                                     - Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times


“…the film is wonderful:  lyrical, well-made and edited, and compelling…”

        - Ken Burns, filmmaker (“The Civil War”, “Jazz”)


“…the most complete visual account of self-made architect Simon Rodia and his masterpiece…”

-  Robert Koehler, Variety                                                     


“A lyrical look at the South Los Angeles masterpiece… it includes, among much else, a fascinating 1983 interview that the filmmakers did with the engineer and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller.”

                                      -  Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times      


 “…a captivating film…”

        -  Timothy Taylor, The Globe and Mail, Vancouver


“Landler and Byer’s film is fascinating not only for the slice of art history it exposes, but for the quotations it includes by Rodia, whose worldview is weird and captivating the whole way through.”

-  Isa Tousignant, Hour, Montreal





Also available at the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus and on the film’s website is the CD of the music for I Build the Tower featuring Classical, Jazz and Hip Hop offerings based on themes by Giuseppe Verdi.

Listen to these selected samples from the CD:

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