Sunday, July 27, 2008
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
This will be a brief post, because it is undoubtedly best to see Kurt Kuenne's documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father with as little preparation as possible. Not that anything could prepare you for the impact of this movie, which left the Siren a shaking, sobbing mess on her couch, searching the letter that accompanied the disc from Flickhead to see if he had included a phone number. He didn't, and it's just as well. Incoherent blubbering calls at 11:30 at night are small thanks for passing along a great movie, even if Flickhead must have known the film would flatten me too.
Dear Zachary outlines events that would be wrenching no matter how they were depicted, but Kuenne's accomplishment is something else again. He began the movie as a memorial to his friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, who was murdered in 2001. Murder runs through all kinds of American films, both narrative and documentary. But Kuenne had an unusual resource, in that as a budding filmmaker he recorded hours of Bagby over the years. The director intersperses the old footage with many interviews with Bagby's friends and relatives. Kuene's accretion of detail recreates his friend in such a way that Bagby becomes as extraordinary to the viewer as he was for those who loved him. For once, life itself, and not just the taking of it, occupies the heart of the film. Proudly subjective, the movie gradually shifts into blistering advocacy, but beyond the grief and rage are the decent, loving people at Dear Zachary's core.
The film will be shown on MSNBC in the fall, according to the film site. (Be warned that browsing the site will reveal details.) Apparently a theatrical distributor is still being sought, and the Siren hopes a deal is struck soon.