Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Fathe... !NEW!
Filled with both amazing and terrifying real-life characters that are larger than life in many instances, Kuenne carefully considered and deeply heartfelt examination of the life of his dear friend and those that were a part of his journey is filled with hilariously real insights and stunningly heartbreaking revelations about the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Bagby and the after-affects the followed.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Fathe...
Few films, documentary or fiction, possess the power to pick the viewer apart piece by piece emotionally, and then put them back together again. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father accomplishes that rare feat with incredible skill and candor -- not once, but twice, during its fleeting 95-minute run-time. At its core, Dear Zachary is a powerful meditation on love, strength, and remarkable courage. But make no mistake; in order to reach that life-affirming message of hope, you the viewer must first descend through a level of despair so black and vile that you can actually feel your chest tighten and your breath quicken as your heart shatters in slow motion. At times, it seems as if whatever light exists at the end of this suffocating tunnel will most certainly be swallowed up by the darkness before we can reach it, yet thanks to the amazing dedication of one remarkable filmmaker, two enormously brave parents, and an entire army of loving, dedicated friends, this story ends not with the tragedy that threatens to define it, but with the reassurance that two people who suffered unimaginable loss have made it their life's mission to ensure that no one else be subjected to the same hell that they endured and barely survived. By all accounts, Andrew Bagby was a rare breed: he was an only child who always got on well with his parents, inspired and supported his friends, had an endearing sense of humor, and strived to improve the lives of others by becoming a doctor. It's a profound feeling to experience a man's life by simply watching a film, and that's exactly what director Kurt Kuenne accomplishes as Andrew's remarkable tale unfolds on the screen before us. Most people are lucky if they have only a handful of people out there who care about them; to witness the number of people whose lives Andrew Bagby touched, and to hear their stories is nothing short of inspiring. Upon seeing Andrew for the first time, it's easy to see why so many people held him in such high regard, so why on Earth would anyone want to harm such a loyal and benevolent man? That's where the story begins to swerve toward tragedy. Andrew was away at medical school in Newfoundland when he first met Shirley Turner. He was far from home and still reeling from a particularly painful breakup at the time, so despite the fact that Turner was a notably older divorcée who already had three children of her own, the attention she lavished on him was simply irresistible to such a vulnerable soul. And while Andrew's friends seemed to sense that there was something wrong with Shirley from the very beginning, Andrew was just the kind of trusting kid who would never suspect that anyone's motives could be anything less than genuine. By the time he finished medical school and returned to the United States to begin practicing medicine, Andrew's fate -- and that of his future child -- had already been sealed. When Kuenne learned of the horrible fate that had befallen his friend, and subsequently discovered that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's one and only child, he decided to travel across the country with camera in hand, gathering memories from those who knew Andrew so that his son, Zachary, would be able to one day see what an incredible man his father really was. To give away any more of the story would be something of a betrayal to the filmmaker, because who better to tell Andrew's tale than the friend who knew him since they were seven-year-old kids horsing around in the backyard and making movies together? And what a story it is. If someone were to tell you the tale of Andrew Bagby's death and the events that followed, it would seem too awful to be true. And yet it is, and the manner in which it's presented is nothing short of astonishing. It's like being trapped in a nightmare in which paralysis leaves you powerless to prevent the situation unfolding before your very eyes from dissolving into disaster, but these events are far worse than any nightmare because they've already transpired in real life. Kuenne's skills as a filmmaker -- in particular as an editor -- ensure that you experience this unforgettable journey precisely as he did. A skillful layering of voices early on underscores just how highly regarded Bagby was by his legions of friends, and a furious montage when the situation reaches its vile nadir drives home the pain and shock of such a horrifying moment with the soul-crushing power of a jackhammer to the heart. Kuenne wants you to fully experience the horror of Turner's reprehensible transgression and the agony of the people it directly impacted. And you will -- if not for the powerhouse editing, then for the simple fact that you have come to know and care for these people over the course of the film. Dear Zachary is absolutely riveting from the opening montage to the heartbreaking but hopeful final frames. It's an incredible narrative told by an immensely talented storyteller, and the result is one of the most moving, soul-stirring documentaries ever produced. Some people, quite understandably, may not wish to subject themselves to a film with the penetrating emotional power of Dear Zachary -- especially parents who have had to bear the burden of burying their own children. For viewers able to remain focused through their own tears, however, Dear Zachary is the kind of film that, once seen, will forever remain in your heart and mind.
Ethics and truth in the land of documentary come under the microscope in our discussion of Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne's love letter to his childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, is a sensational and moving film that you should know as little as possible about before watching. It's exceptionally effective, built out of a combination of interviews, home footage, still photos and more, masterfully edited to generate emotional affect - but despite its qualities, there are real issues fundamental to its form. It's a hybrid of two types of film that find themselves in competition here: it's a documentary, a form about openness and truth; and a thriller, withholding information until it reshapes everything you've learned so far. It's a tension that may well be impossible to avoid - to resolve it might be to totally change Dear Zachary from the deeply personal, passionately made film it is.The story Dear Zachary tells is powerful, moving and utterly gripping, and the conversation to which it will lead you is rich and illuminating. We recommend it without reservation, even though we have serious reservations about it.Recorded on 14th March 2021.
One of the pleasures of an all access pass to film festivals is the opportunity to be drawn to something by word of mouth. I was accidentally standing outside the theatre after the first viewing of this film at the Sarasota Film Festival. Everyone coming out was raving about it, a film that I had originally pegged as just another manipulative true crime documentary. Most had been crying like babies. My freedom at the venue allowed me to change from a viewing of Priceless to this film. I had no idea I was waking into a wall of cinematic fury.To say it was staggering is inadequate. The impact of it all is in part driven by style. Though the form is a traditional overlapping story structure, the frenetic pace of the presentation creates a sense many times of 'too much information'. Mixed in however are some stylistic tricks that act as accent marks to move your perception to one place versus others. This moves your feelings in one direction or another within the time frame of larger movements of emotion that drive the story. The technique, though not unique, is applied in the course of a story that would seem to demand more subtly, however, it works wonderfully. Could it be that within this piece of time about a very personal tragedy a new documentary form emerges? But the story and the trek to get through it are what keeps you glued. I will not go into the morphology of the multiplex of stories here since it would ruin the impact. Leave it to say that constant unexpected change ups give one the feeling you are on a roller coaster of emotional complexity. The net effect leaves you nearly breathless and, as one sobbing young woman I convinced to see the film told me, in desperate need of water.The film ends with a seemingly endless list of all involved, most at least tangentially affected by the event if not actually in the film content. As you absorb the story's impact, consider that the true theme of the film is to introduce you to this virtual community of people discovered by this young filmmaker who started with an homage to his best friend and ended up capturing something far more profound.There are many moments where we try to take solace in the good that can come from the horrid. After viewing this, ask yourself that even though all involved would have wished for the events not to have happened, the emotional fulfillment exuding from this film may have left all surviving the better for it. This filmmaker's love letter to his vastly extended family that grew out of the tragedy and his odyssey documenting it make for the kind of things we most look forward to in the cinema. 041b061a72