Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix website, for recommending Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father for our “Must See List” series. Not only had I not heard of Dear Zachary before, but I would have missed out on a truly moving film experience. My wife would probably agree as two days after screening the film she was still shaken by what she witnessed.
After his long time friend, Andrew Bagby, is murdered by a former girlfriend, Dr. Shirley Turner, filmmaker Kurt Kuenner sets out to make a film that celebrates the life of his friend. Talking to Bagby’s family members, friends, and colleagues, Kuenner begins to craft a story about a man who was a promising med student and, more importantly, loved by all who encountered him. Yet Kuenner’s documentary takes an unexpected turn when Turner, while waiting for her extradition trial from Canada to the United States to start, divulges that she is four months pregnant with Bagby’s child.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is, on the surface, Kuenner’s ode to his deceased friend and yet it evolves into so much more. The documentary is brilliantly edited as several different stories play out on screen during the course of the film. Despite the multiple storylines the film never feels overblown or dull. In fact the opposite occurs as the film is continually gripping as it provides a well rounded look at how the tragedy effected Bagby’s loved ones, and a detailed account of how the Canadian justice failed a community.
Never has a film made me feel embarrassed to be a Canadian the way Dear Zachary did. It made me angry to think that my beloved country’s legal system could be so flawed. I could understand if it was one particular person who dropped the ball, but it was a series of people at various levels that all took part in the massive blunder. Dr. Turner clearly had a sickness that seemed to be triggered by men yet everyone except the people who mattered could see it. Despite the rage that the film evoked, a greater emotion overcame me in the end: deep sadness.
I would be lying if I said that I did not get a little misty watching Dear Zachary. While I did not break down in tears, though I did see my wife reach for the Kleenex, I found it extremely tough to watch the film considering my newborn child was sleeping in my arms at the time. The film really makes you think about family, friends, and sacrifice. What Andrew Bagby’s parents had to endure after his death is unimaginable. This film is unflinchingly heart-wrenching to sit through, so I can only guess that it was 100 times worst for the Bagby family who had to endure it in real time. If this film does not make want to give a loved one, whether it be family or friend, a hug by the time the film ends then you may indeed have a heart of ice.
They say that a person’s life can be measured by how those who really knew them speak of them once they are gone. Dear Zachary takes this ideology to a whole new level as it celebrates both life and death but not necessarily in the ways you would initially expect. Although I can talk for hours about all the things I loved about the film, I will practice restraint as Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father really needs to be experienced. I can only hope that I have a quarter of the impact on the lives of my family and friends that the Bagby family had on everyone they encountered.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is part of our The Must See List series. It was select based on a submission by Colin