Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008)

DVD Cover (Oscilloscope Pictures)
Genres: Biography (Non-Fiction), Documentary, Interpersonal Relationships, Law & Crime
In 2001, Andrew Bagby, a medical resident, is murdered not long after breaking up with his girlfriend. Soon after, when she announces she's pregnant, one of Andrew's many close friends, Kurt Kuenne, begins this film, a gift to the child. Friends, relatives, and colleagues say warm and loving things about Andrew, home movies confirm his exuberance. Andrew's parents, Kathleen and David, move to Newfoundland, Canada where the ex-girlfriend has gone. They await an arrest and trial of the murderer. They negotiate with the ex-girlfriend to visit their grandchild, Zachary, and they seek custody. Is there any justice; is Zachary a sweet and innocent consolation for the loss of their son? --IMDb
Kurt Kuenne Kurt Kuenne
Kurt Kuenne Kurt Kuenne
Andrew Bagby Andrew Bagby
David Bagby David Bagby
Kathleen Bagby Kathleen Bagby
Shirley Turner Shirley Turner

8.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 02, 2008
Whenever you attend a film festival, there is always one film that stands out of the crowd - one film that sticks with you and really does have an impact, positive or negative. At this year's Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, that film was "Dear Zachary: A Letter to A Son About His Father". You might be slightly familiar with the story, or you might not. I will give you some of the details without telling everything because I want each and every one of you to see it for yourselves. The film is going to be playing on MSNBC very soon and will be available on DVD at the first of next year, so you don't have very long to wait. "Dear Zachary" ended up winning the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the festival and that's because every single person in the audience was completely blown away by what I consider to be one of the best documentaries ever made. With all of that said, let me give you a few details about the picture.

The film chronicles director Kurt Kuenne's attempts to celebrate the life of his friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby. Bagby was murdered by his former girlfriend, Shirley Turner. Turner fled to Newfoundland to escape arrest. Soon thereafter, it was discovered that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's child. This is when Kuenne decided to drive cross country to interview the friends and family whom Andrew touched, as a tribute to Andrew and as a gift to Andrew's unborn child. At the same time, Andrew's parents, Kate and David, relocated to Newfoundland to attempt to have Shirley brought back to the U.S. for justice and to seek custody of Zachary, Andrew's son. The film follows Kurt as he travels and interviews those closest to Andrew; and it follows Kate and David as they do everything they can to win custody of Zachary from Shirley. That's all I am going to reveal, because I don't want to spoil the emotional impact of this truly amazing piece of cinema.

What works so well in this film is that Kuenne really makes you care about the people involved. By the end of the film, we feel like we know Andrew. He feels like one of our friends, or even a member of our family. We see this man who touched so many people - someone who truly was an inspiration to all around him. We see his life cut tragically cut short by an act of premeditated malice and we hate the person who did it. None of this changes throughout the picture. We also see the strength and determination of Andrew's parents, who really are the centerpieces of this film. Both are so incredible in the way they handle the most hideous of circumstances. For example, in order to spend time with their grandson, they have to keep in communication and even have a relationship with Shirley, the woman who killed their son. Anyone who could do something like that has to be commended. In addition, they have to endure constant separation from Zachary, who is in the hands of a murderer. It's something no one should ever have to experience.

The film goes into some places that have rarely been explored on film before. It goes into some emotionally devastating places that leave you absolutely breathless. Every one in the audience was wide eyed and completely floored by the end of this film. I haven't cried this much in years and really doubt I have ever cried this much in a theatrical setting. I was moved, inspired and absolutely enraged that something like this could happen in this day and age. "Dear Zachary" is, if nothing else, a call to arms. I won't tell you about what. What I will say is this - "Dear Zachary" is the best documentary of the year, one of the best films of the year, and one of the best documentaries I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I cannot recommend this film enough. Just know going in that it will absolutely wreck you. But, sometimes, that's just what we need to make change.

Chad #1: Chad - added 01/31/2010, 02:11 AM
This was a hard film to watch, and by the end, I was bawling like a little baby. It's a little rough around the edges, granted, but knowing that it was made by a man directly involved with the subject just lends to the credibility and the emotions. Can not recommend this one enough, thoroughly agreed with the review. 10/10.
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