Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) Poster

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9/10
A stunner
crappydoo12 July 2008
I just completed watching this harrowing documentary and it is only now that, having got the time to catch my breath, I am able to review it.

To begin with, I'd recommend not reading any of the other reviews so that you start watching it with absolutely no foreknowledge, and so that the film gets the opportunity to have the impact that it is designed to have, which, in my opinion, would only be fair to the director. Therefore without revealing the story I would only like to mention that this is a documentary that the film maker has made in remembrance of his close friend and his family; and its a bloody good watch.

The direction is great and the best part is that this documentary is made in 'real time'; which means that events unfold as the film progresses. This is probably something that I've never experienced in any other documentary before, since most of them are made in retrospect. It makes its point clean and crisp and it will certainly not be a waste of your time and money.

The film progresses in a quick and efficient manner and the time just seems to fly. The film is narrated in a very smart way with plenty of smash cuts. This documentary plays like a big budget commercial Hollywood film and will probably have you glued right up to the last minute.

So its good stuff. If you get the chance to watch it I'd recommend it. If you don't, well that's just too bad.
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10/10
Inspiration through loss.
shannon-13626 August 2008
It started out as a remembrance for a son about his father and it became so much more.

I saw this film Sunday and it still resides in my heart and haunts me. This is the first documentary I have ever seen that has drawn me in completely, and made me feel as though I am part of the story and a friend to the victim. It was a roller-coaster of emotions and there were quite a few teary-eyed people by the end. I feel I had to give it a proper review, but like many have stated, it's hard to do so without ruining the effect the filmmaker intends. This story pulls you along and unfolds as it does for our narrator, the filmmaker, Kurt Kunne. His story is personal because he grew up with the central figure, Dr. Andrew Bagby.

Andrew's parents, David and Kate, whom I had a chance to meet with after the screening, are lovely people, and I instantly saw why they foster so much love and support throughout the film: They are genuinely kind people who give off a wonderful parental-vibe. They show so much love and hope in the face of almost insurmountable evil. You hold onto their love and hope through the last few minutes, and eventually you find what the narrator finds: inspiration.

The editing and the directing reveal a truly gifted filmmaker, Mr. Kunne, a superb storyteller, bounces back and forth between past and present events. He reveals what happens at several key points which leads us an ending you should rather just see than have me explain.

From what I've read there were several richly deserved standing ovations as the film ventured into the festival circuit. If you have a chance to see, "Dear Zachary," this film will be playing until Thursday of this week at the arc-light cinemas in Hollywood. The filmmaker, Kurt, said the film will be making a return to Hollywood in early November and shall be coming to New York City in late October, MSNBC will be premiering the film December 7th and the DVD shall go on sale some time in mid-FEBRUARY.

I suggest everyone pays their money to see this film for the sake of advocacy groups and to support bail reform in Canada. Although the legal system in Canada is put on trial in this documentary, it reveals a real problem with our own justice system here in the United States, and how some criminals are given preferential treatment over victims and their families' rights.

I cannot tell you how much this film has affected me. How truly inspirational I find David Bagby and Kate Bagby to be…

Please support Academy caliber documentaries, with a strong sense of heart, and a great message of hope. This is a wonderful, albeit tragic and yet inspiring film.
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10/10
Experience the Life of the Bagbys
rishi6212 February 2009
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. I have never been affected by a movie as much as this. Ever since i saw this movie, I have not been able to get the story out of my head. The way Kurt uses home movies and interviews to capture the essence of Andrew is perfect. I feel like i know and love the Bagby family. The film takes you through Andrews life showing the people that he touched along the way. The quote that really stuck with me was when Clark said something along the lines of "What would life be if this one person never existed". This is very relevant because of this movie to this day Andrew is affecting the lives of people that he never met including mine. He has inspired me to really cherish the relationships that I have, because life is too short for petty things. I have never cried in a movie, but this movie managed to get me to cry within the first 20 minutes. I am not a movie critic so i do not know how to write a review, all you gotta do is watch the movie. You are doing yourself a disservice if you miss this beautiful tribute. Much love to the Bagby friends and family.
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10/10
Groundbreaking Roller Coaster Few Will See
dalefried5 July 2008
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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10/10
An absolute Must See
mysticwit15 March 2008
I cannot praise this heartfelt documentary enough. Too often documentaries with such a personal tie have touch (or more) of vanity. Not Dear Zachary.

Kurt Kuenne could have easily turn this tribute to a dead friend into a vanity project, or overly sentimental. The evolution of this project is full of sentiment, indeed, but is done so in such a way that the viewer is completely engaged in the story and feels the loss on a personal level.

This is the hardest film to review because to explain it, is to spoil the experience of it. Let's just say that Andrew Bagby was a very loved person, and this tribute to a man whose life was brutally cut short could have easily been a depressing, dark tale. Instead, while it has some wrenching moments, it's ultimately a love story of family and friends, and the powerful influence people can have in each others lives, for good and for ill.

If you have the opportunity to catch this film, do not hesitate to do it. This is one I'm adding to my DVD collection as soon as it's available.
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10/10
It's a Wonderful Life as reimagined by Charles Manson
egomoz30 April 2009
Wow, I certainly wasn't expecting it to be this overwhelming. It's the emotional equivalent of having your head kicked in against the curb.

I thought I knew where the story was going but I couldn't shake the sense of sinister dread. I didn't think the story could get any bleaker but then... Maybe I'm doing it a disservice but I would strongly recommend this film to anyone who isn't in an already too fragile state. Because once you invest your own emotions in the story, you are screwed - within minutes I went from sad to angry to shocked and depressed and back and forth etc.

That's quite an achievement. Yes, the film is flawed but you know what? I don't mind that films are flawed, it's the emotional punch that I'm going for. The film is made by someone on a mission (albeit a confused one at times) but the end result is a film that is raw and intimate.

Oh, there is a special place reserved in heaven for all the Bagbys. And a special place in hell for the murderer and the judge who set the murderer loose.
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10/10
"I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
droopfozz7 November 2008
Dear Zachary Dir. Kurt Kuenne ***** "Perhaps it's done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."-Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable That final sentence, from one of the great novels of all-time, works here as a description of the heart and soul of this film, the best I've seen all year. Kurt Kuenne sets out to find all there is to know about his murdered friend Andrew Bagby after talking with friends who knew parts about Andrew's life that he never told Kurt. Shortly after stating this endeavor it is revealed that the woman who killed Andrew is also pregnant with his son. Kurt then decides to make the film into a memorial to give to Andrew's son, Zachary.

This is a film that is a search for its filmmaker, a search which ultimately finds itself asking the most unanswerable of questions. The unfolding of the events surrounding the search cause Kuenne to revisit his approach, his interview subjects, and allows the audience a personal look into an artist trying to make sense of the impossible (in fact, the film was never meant to be released except to family members).

Nearly a decade in the making the film compiles years of interviews with dozens of people who knew and loved Andrew, as well as through a number of home videos. Part of makes this a stunning example of art as process, is the fact that Andrew starred Kurt's home made movies growing up, and we see footage from those films, where we see even then the use of film being used to make sense of the world.

The amount of footage, interviews, and information comes at you early and quickly. The audience becomes immersed in the lives of Andrew's family; knows the information when the family knows it, and experiences the events as if they were one of Andrew's friends. An outsider may have been tempted to manipulate the audience, but Kuenne's approach is earnest and admirably restrained. He obviously cares about his friends, and is nothing but charitable to them by his representation (or non-representation in some cases) in this film. That said, Kurt doesn't pretend not to be involved himself. He keeps in narration where he gets emotional. He lets you know that he is frustrated and furious, and that at times he doesn't know where to turn.

This is one of those rare films which is an experience. I cannot remember the last time I was so viscerally effected by a film. Not just in tears but going through a wide range of palpable feelings, some clear cut, some frustratingly ambiguous, and leaving me haunted, purged, shaken. The film allows us to experience with Andrew's parents a diverse and difficult range of emotions. You will be angry, sickened, hopeful, humored, devastated, inspired, awed, depressed, and everything in between. At times you'll want to throw up your hands and say: "I can't go on!" It shows us humanity at its most evil, yet, without being sentimental, shows us how life can go on in the face of incomprehensible horror.

I don't know if I've seen another film which so effectively conveys the impact of the loss of a human life. A shot early on in the film catches a quick glimpse of ripples in a water, and this film looks at those ripples instead of focusing on the initial cause of those ripples.

And in the end, when the film comes back to the filmmaker, on his experience and his journey, in a recap of what we've experienced with humanity in microcosm throughout the film, its a devastating turn which displays the brilliance in the film's structure, despite it appearing a bit haphazard on the surface, all along.

I don't know whether to tell you to read more about the film or not. I've tried not to tell too many details because for full effect, and to do justice to the filmmakers experience you need to let this film wash over you. But I also don't know if some of the more sensitive viewers will make it through this film unprepared. Maybe this will suffice: this is not an easy film; the best never are. But like Becket's Trilogy, by looking through at life through the most hopeless of situations, somehow those who experience the work come out stronger, more human. Victor Frankel's early title for Man's Search for Meaning was "A Case for Tragic Optimism." That is this film.

read more reviews@ floydfortnightly.blogspot.com
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An absolutely devastating documentary you will never forget
Benedict_Cumberbatch12 June 2009
It makes me sad to see people criticizing "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father" for its technical limitations. I rented knowing only it was about a pregnant woman who killed her ex-boyfriend, the subsequent plight of the victim's parents and their agonizing efforts to win the custody of their grandson, Zachary (whose mother was released on bail). But the whole story is so unpredictable - and devastatingly sad - that the less you know about it, the better.

Writer/director/producer/composer Kurt Kuenne was a close friend of Dr. Andrew Bagby, who was killed by a psychotic woman, "Dr." Shirley Turner, right after he had broken up with her. He decided to make a final film with his childhood friend Andrew, and when they learned Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's baby, whom she named Zachary, it became more than a tribute to a friend, but a project to show Zachary the father he would never get to know. With Shirley at large, however, their nightmare wasn't over.

With such a tough, emotional subject, it would be easy to get overtly sentimental, but Kuenne does a terrific job. The film is obviously a very personal project, and visibly no-budget, but that's not an issue because this is not a film meant to be visibly stunning. Apparently, some people are way too cynical to appreciate a film for its heart and content rather than focusing on its aesthetics and "artiness". It had a much bigger effect on me than the last Oscar winner for Best Documentary, "Man on Wire" (a fine film itself). Had this film been directed by, say, Michael Moore, it would have been more incendiary and garnered larger media attention, but wouldn't have been half as passionate, compelling and, most important, honest.

Kuenne uses the cinematic tool to document history, make a tribute for beloved friends (not only Andrew and little Zachary, but also Andrew's parents, David and Kathleen, the emotional core of this story) and to instigate the audience, both emotionally and intellectually. When most movies that get a wide release don't even attempt either of these goals, this is a remarkable achievement. Not to be missed. 10/10.
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7/10
One of the Most Traumatic Films Ever Made
deproduction25 August 2009
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is easily one of the most traumatic films I've ever seen. Its not technically the most impressive documentary film, but the subject matter is powerful-enough that you cannot help but be deeply impacted by the story. I've hesitated to suggest it to a few of my more fragile friends because it is one of those films that can leave you in an emotional funk for days afterward. Its that powerful of a film, but not for the faint of heart. I personally would not watch it again, though I'm grateful that the filmmaker stuck with the project through it all and did not give up, as many would have. I'm grateful this story was told, even if it was painful to experience.
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10/10
No other documentary has touched my soul the way Dear Zachary has
bailey-phillips4794 February 2020
I have never wrote a review before but if any film deserves one, it is Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father.

My mom and I are avid documentary watchers and we stumbled upon this doc when was on Netflix around 2013. We knew nothing going into it. But we were immediately transfixed. For a solid hour and a half we watched through laughter, through streaming tears, through the most abject, repugnant horror, and through the love that radiates from every person in this film.

Directed by Kurt Kuane, Andrew Bagby's best friend, he turned unspeakable tragedy into a story of love, justice, and a call for activism for bail reform, exposing the multiple failures of the justice system. Kurt also did an amazing job composing this film because by the end, you feel like you knew Andrew. You can feel the immense love and grief at the loss of his life and the impact it had, an impact that rippled like a tidal wave across the world by all those that love him. And to me, more than anything, you get to know Andrew's parents, David and Kate Bagby. There are not any words to describe those two beautiful, strong, resilient, dedicated, loving, angels-on-earth type of human beings they are. My heart aches and breaks for them. For all the horror that is documentary shows, there is a resounding notion of overwhelming love. For the violent, brutal, sickening, unthinkable, unspeakable atrocity these beautiful people have been through... I admire them from the bottom of my heart.

This documentary will rip your heart into pieces, ignite a burning fire of hatred in your soul... but it's worth every moment to "get to know" these beautiful people and the resilience that true love can sustain.

If you want more information after watching this, David Bagby write an incredible and just as heart breaking book called Dancing With The Devil that gives an in-depth, first hand account of what Kate and him endured moment by moment.

I would give this a hundred stars if I could.

I hope you've found any type of the slightest bit of peace and solace over the years. My thoughts are never far from you...

Always, A fellow human being
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8/10
Intimate and Passionate: SEE IT!
moviesleuth213 December 2009
Voyeurism is a funny thing. Watching other people's little dramas or lives may seem boring at the outset, but often times it can be just as interesting, if not more so, than anything a big studio can come up with. With "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father," we as an audience get a glimpse into a man that we otherwise would never have known. And after viewing this film, I have to graciously thank writer/director Kurt Kuenne for this.

After the murder of his lifelong best friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, filmmaker Kurt Kuenne decided to go and interview everyone who knew Andrew in order to give his late friend's soon-to-be born son a way to know his father. But unbeknownst to anyone, this film would turn into something completely different.

Reviewing this film is difficult. For one thing, no one had any idea where this film was going (Kuenne, who narrates, openly admits this, although no one could possibly imagine what was going to happen). But more importantly, this film has something that many films don't: passion. It has a voice. This film will make you laugh, cry, scream in both terror and anger, and so much more. Even the most politically, one-sided films do not speak to the viewer like this film. In that sense, this film is a masterpiece.

But, on a critical scale, it comes up a little short. For me, the most effective bits were the interviews about Andrew. Those were funny and touching. Even if it added a few extra minutes to the running time, it would have been worth it. I felt like I could have watched a whole day's worth of interviews about Andrew. But the film gets into the struggle between Shirley Turner, Andrew's ex-girlfriend and probable murderer and Andrew's parents, who are trying to seek custody Andrew's son, Zachary. The film sort of loses focus at times, and it really inhibits Kuenne's goal in letting us know who Andrew was. At the end, it almost seems like a piece of propaganda (see the movie and you'll understand). Judging by what happens, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still. Of minor note, the film only shows the good things about Andrew. Not that Kuenne turns him into some sort of flawless figure (Bagby does that himself), but it would have made Bagby seem more well-rounded.

Yet I wholeheartedly recommend this film. It introduces us to a wonderful person, and his name was Andrew Bagby.
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10/10
devastating-broke my heart into too many pieces
michelle_n_marshall-126 March 2009
Boy oh boy, this is a hard one to watch. For the rest of my life I have a baby's face indelibly imprinted into my heart. I can't shake this documentary; I am certain that I am not supposed to. My heart as well as my rage goes to Andrew and Zacharys loved ones, especially Mr and Mrs Bagby. I swear to God I will think of you always. Your bravery and love is overwhelming to me. I swear I would have broken if I were in your shoes. And I hate her too. I can't be nice about it at all, I hate her and what she did. Wicked, evil, beyond contempt. And as for those judges, may God have mercy on them, because if I they have no mercy from me. I am ENRAGED! What I do know is, it that you are so very strong. I am overwhelmed by the two of you. And I am CERTAIN that you have saved so many others lives by giving yourself to this cause. Another promise, even though I am having a real hard time praying to God right now, after seeing this Documentary, because I am so enraged, I swear, tonight I drop to my knees and pray for all of you. With all of my heart, I promise
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10/10
Shattering
TheKingOfLasVegas26 August 2012
Having just experienced the joy of Kuenne's most recent film "Shuffle," I sat down with this one expecting a sad but warm'n'fuzzy (and obviously personal) account of friendship and loss. And that's what he set out to make. But who knew that such Real Evil exists in this world, and that his tale would turn into one of Horror that would leave me intensely depressed, angry and shattered? This a mighty, mighty difficult journey to take, but it's personal, independent filmmaking at its absolute zenith, and was worth the extra dose of Clonazepam I needed to get through it. Kuenne is quite the multiple threat...the brilliant editing that hammers the bigger moments home with unbearable ferocity is his, and the trenchant music score is his. This is an Important Talent, and I'll be in line for whatever he does next. And may I say to Mr. Kuenne that I'm so sorry that life dealt you, as well as Dr. Bagby's wonderful family and circle of friends, such unspeakable horror.
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9/10
Absolutely horrifying
doomedmac15 January 2021
The subject matter of this documentary is overwhelming. The facts are harsh and unforgiving. The devil is real.
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10/10
So compelling it will make you scream and cry.
louisvcharles1 October 2020
You only watch Dear Zachary once, not because it's bad, rather the opposite. The emotion, the frustration, the utter despair, it's captured so well. To put yourself through such an experience twice would be self harm.

Easily the most moving piece of film ever produced.
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10/10
As perfect a piece of filmmaking can get
ryanphelantv14 November 2015
I knew nothing of this story, and purely watched based on the positive reviews. From the opening minutes, you become immersed in a world of sadness, pain, beauty and hope all at once. If you only ever watch one documentary in your life, make it this one.

Knowing as little as possible about the story is advantageous, as the narrative takes you in many different directions. You heart aches for so many of the people involved, and the courage in moving forward in their lives serves as a great inspiration to us all.

Please watch this film. In a business where churning out meaningless scripts all with the view to making a fast buck are filling our theaters, it's so important to celebrate the light and dark of humanity through wonderful filmmaking like this.
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8/10
A haunting and devastating documentary that will stay with you for days.
Matt_Layden18 October 2011
There are many documentaries that are better than this one, specifically from a technical stand point. The biggest shortcoming on this film is the poor editing. It was never meant to be released theatrically, it was meant for the family it focuses on, so there are forgivable aspects, but it is indeed distracting to watch the film with distracting editing choices. Parts of the film do feel really messy and quickly put together.

The subject matter on the other hand is one of the most heart wrenching things I've had to watch. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion and you sit there, helpless with nothing to do. The film is about Andrew, a 30 year old male who was shot to death, 5 times, from his ex-girlfriend. The filmmaker, one of his best friends, decided to make a film dedicated to the memory of his friend. Along the way they discover that the ex-girlfriend was 4 months pregnant with Andrew's child. Now the film switches focus and becomes a "letter" of sorts to Zachary (the child) about the father he will never get the chance to meet.

That's only a fraction of the emotional core of the film. I have nothing but utter respect and disbelief in the strengths of Andrew's parents, for what they chose to go through in order to be apart of Zachary's life. The director manages to showcase Andrew enough to make it seem like the viewer knew him by the end of the film. I have to hand it to Kurt (the director) as well, he goes to great lengths to speak to and film every person that had some sort of involvement in Andrew's life. His family, his friends, his co-workers, etc. He goes on a cross country trip to track down these people and talk to them.

There was undoubtedly hours upon hours of footage to splice together and as I mentioned before this film was never meant for theatrical release. So the entire production was done by Kurt. Every aspect he had control over and it's a heavy task. His relationship with the subject matter makes the doc extremely subjective. Yet with all the evidence presented, is there another way to look at it?

An abundance of emotion overcame me while watching this documentary. The two that stood out to me was sadness and anger. The filmmakers shortcomings from his technical aspects isn't a deterrent to the overall film. I say that everyone should go out and seek the film. If you have Netflix, it's available. It's a must see film.
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10/10
A heartwrenching documentary.
RockDad3716 December 2010
I remember reading about this film awhile back, so when I saw it available for streaming on NetFlix, I was happy to give it a spin. I was not disappointed. This is as emotionally powerful a film as I've ever seen. Make no mistake, this is a one-sided story, not some emotionally neutral take on the events, but it's all the more effective because of it. Not only is it presented in such a way that you feel as though you've gotten to know the people involved, but also the story unfolds in a manner that packs a huge punch. I'm not a cryer during movies. Ever. But there was no containing myself on this one. A truly harrowing drama.
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One of the most heartbreaking and horrifying films you will ever see...
Red_Identity15 January 2011
Dear Zachary is a documentary, and there is a fallacy about documentaries that this one proves wrong- that they are all logic and lack heart. Kurt Kuenne has made a documentary in a way that a film itself is made, with amazing editing patterns and with a story that really grabs you and moves you. Yes, this is a sad film, but the reason a documentary like this is able to move someone so deeply is not just because it's real, but also because of the craft of the filmmaker. He is trying to make an actual memorial to these people and no words or facts will capture the true horror of a true life event as honestly as what he has created with music. The film plays out very much like a thriller, drama, and tragedy all at once.

Now, to the actual events in the film- horrifying. Of course, the film also takes a look at the unbelievably flawed legal system in Canada, but it makes one wonder. Why? Why? Why? To be honest I have never been fond of Canada and the film might play out like an attack against it but my personal feelings can't be kept inside. It is enough to truly make you hate the country. I just hope the film also makes people notice, which is the point of an actual documentary.

I usually dislike emotionally-manipulative films, but films like this when are well made cannot be disregarded. As a documentary it succeeds amazingly well.
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9/10
A Nutshell Review: Dear Zachary
DICK STEEL12 October 2009
What started off as a love letter sort of project for a late friend's son, became something quite horrifically unimaginable as Kurt Kuenne's documentary wore on. It's filled with enough twists and turns, and moments where you would deem manipulative thanks to the power of editing and sledge-hammering some obvious emotional points through, but told in such a compelling, engaging fashion that you can't help but be caught up in both the video memorial, as well as the documentary aspects of some heinous crimes committed.

The project started off as a huge collection of video recordings from family, relatives and friends of Andrew Bagby, who at age 28 was found murdered with 5 gunshot wounds to his body. Kuenne had decided to embark on a cross-country project to document the memories of Andrew's closed ones to allow them to share with his unborn son, their respective tributes and nuggets of information of a man who had his life unfairly cut short. And through this collection of videos, with of course its snippets of Andrew himself making it to the film, allows for the audience to identify and get chummy even with jovial man who's so full of life. Until a mistake was made.

Which involved a relationship with a much older woman, and would spell trouble with a capital T, being the villain which you'd love to hate thanks to the unflattering portrayal put together by Kuenne. Accounts from friends too turn out to be filled with plenty of negative vibes, and she's prime suspect #1 (almost without qualms actually) to be guilty of the homicide. To make matters worse, she's pregnant with Andrew's kid. For the second half of the film, it became sort of a murder-mystery, and follows the uphill battle of Andrew's parents Kate and David Bagby in their custody battle, for which you'll feel an abundance for in the crazy ordeal they were put through deliberately designed to test their mental strength and willpower.

It's a remarkable effort in trying to preserve the memory of someone, fused together with the last days and aftermath of a person's life, and documenting some 3 generations of the unfortunate Bagbys, as well as filling in the inadequacies of the justice system regarding bail. Not to mention too the ridiculousness of the folks sitting high up in their ivory towers and having lost touch with the ground, of the indifferent attitudes such people bear in making what seemed to be irrational decisions and judgements, that probably wouldn't fly over here.

You'll feel some pangs of sorrow for what the film had pieced together, and empathize with both Kate and David for having bear witness to crimes that could have been prevented should proactive, common-sensical action be taken. From what turned out to be trying to capture in essence the multi-facet life we all lead depending on who we're with, and the discovery of new things about a friend passed on, this film took on greater proportions and became a more powerful force in social activism. Not to be missed if you have the opportunity to watch it!
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2/10
Interesting subject matter, but terrible filmmaker
chipbridges1 February 2016
While the storyline was fascinating, the slick MTV-style editing and constant cuts were difficult to watch. This started out as a tribute to Kurt Kuenne's fallen friend slain by a crazy lover, but ended as a jumbled mess. The look into Canada's justice system was disturbing and riveting, and the parents of the victim were amazing people that you simply had to root for. The story was excellent, and the filmmaker had much of the young man's life already on film. It was the execution of it that I had a problem with. There are stretches throughout the film where no clip is even a second long. One person's sentence is spliced into another's and so on, at such a pace that it's almost nauseating. Kurt himself also spoke with the speed of an auctioneer, which I found very distracting. It's a shame, because this documentary had the potential to be great.
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7/10
Certainly held my attention
canyongirl6014 September 2019
This was a close look at the case of the murdered Andrew Bagby, and then a look his parents in the aftermath, and his baby son. But I happened to be used to true crime writers who also take a measured look at the murderer's life. Shirley was certainly an emotionally disturbed individual, but in this story we don't find out anything about her beginnings, or any attempt to look at what may have lead to her becoming this way. I surmise this is because this story is presented by a person who was a dear part of Andrew's life, and he, of course, came to detest Shirley Turner and was not interested in a humanizing look at her. I can understand this. This is not the story I would get from an objective true crime journalist or writer. This is just a look at the family, and it is well done for that. I have not read the victim's father's book, Dance With the Devil, and I would suspect that to be full of wonderful detail about Andrew and Zachary, and the Canadian authorities huge failures here, which make me angry, but also no insight into the very disturbed Shirley Turner or her other potential victims. So for a more full understanding of the case, I can research it on the net. However, this documentary was very moving for what it was.
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8/10
Extraordinary.
nesfilmreviews29 December 2012
What starts as tragic story of an extraordinary young man being murdered, begins to takes unimaginable twists and turns leaving the viewer stunned in disbelief. In 2001, Andrew Bagby, a medical resident, is murdered by his ex-girlfriend in Lancaster, PA. Shortly after her arrest she announces she's pregnant with Andrew's child. Kurt Kuenne, one of Andrews friends, begins a cross country trip to make a film for Zachary, a father he will never know. Running parallel to this devastating story is the remarkable family and friends of the victim, displaying relentless perseverance keeping Andrews spirit alive and how he touched so many lives around the world. Andrew's devastated parents uproot their entire lives and relocate to Canada in order to fight for the future of their newborn grandson. During this time, the Canadian government freed Turner (ex-girlfriend) on bail as she awaited extradition to the United States. As a result, a tragic story of loss evolves into the unimaginable. Despite this painful story of loss, it is the awe-inspiring people that make this documentary so poignant and unforgettable.
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10/10
Words cannot express
mfeile197431 December 2019
Words cannot express everything that I felt during and after watching this. I don't think this documentary will ever leave me
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10/10
One of the greatest documentaries ever made
eddie_baggins28 August 2018
There are very few films ever released that have the raw power and emotion that documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father has within it.

I still remember the day I sat down to watch filmmaker Kurt Kuenne's deeply personal film about his murdered long-time friend Dr. Andrew Bagby and the effect the film had on me (the film is in my top 30 films of all-time) from the moment it started until the moment it finished, it's an effect I've rarely ever had from a film and it's an experience that will live with me forever, such is the undeniable power of this once in a lifetime experience.

Dear Zachary has in the year's since its low-key release in 2008 become a film that is oft talked about in online circles as one of the greatest documentaries ever made and a film that has the ability to shock and awe like none other.

It's an experience that is best watched with as little knowledge as possible, as while Kuenne's film is rough around the edges and at times even amateurish in its approaches, there's something magical and heartfelt within it that makes Kuenne's documentary the experience it has become renowned to be.

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.

The other powerful component of Dear Zachary is in its honest examination of the justice system that was present at the time in America and Canada and the way in which Kuenne explores the failure of these areas in the case of the Bagby murder is heartbreaking and highly informative, adding another layer entirely to this otherwise very intimate and unforgettable tale.

Final Say -

If there's ever a film that will break your heart as well as fill it with gladness about the good people in the world its Dear Zachary, a truly life-affirming and life-shattering journey, Kuenne's documentary is a must-watch and quite possibly the most powerful documentary ever produced.

5 home movies out of 5
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