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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 Zachery a sweet and innocent consolation for the loss of their son? Written by
On the afternoon on November 7th 2001 my sister called to tell me that doctor Andrew Bagby, my closest friend since the age of 7, had been killed. My name is Kurt and I'm a filmmaker. Andrew appeared in every movie I made growing up. I decided to make a movie, to travel far and wide, to interview everyone who ever knew and loved Andrew.
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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.
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