SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

Sundance - Why Didn't You Show Dear Zachary??

by
March 17, 2008

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Instead of writing a typical review for Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, which wouldn't have been fitting anyway, I decided I needed to otherwise question why Sundance (or any major film festival) didn't accept this film. Dear Zachary is a documentary made by Andrew Bagby's filmmaker friend Kurt Kuenne. Andrew was murdered a few years ago and this documentary was made to capture the memories of Andrew in order to show his son Zachary the kind of man he was. That's all you need to know going in, because the less you know, the more you'll gain coming out of this. It moved me to tears and left me astounded at the end - this is a film that deserves more appreciation than it's getting.

I was first introduced to Dear Zachary by Erik Davis at Cinematical, who had seen the film at Slamdance (not Sundance) at its premiere. He wrote a similarily vague review only saying things like "this was one of the best documentaries I have ever watched in my entire life" and more commanding statements like "And here's a note to any programmer from any fest reading this review: Play this film. And here's a note to anyone looking to purchase a doc to distribute and whatnot: Buy this film." I knew I wanted to see it, but I didn't know what to expect.

In a last minute decision, I made Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father my final film of the SXSW Film Festival - I was in for something that I didn't even know was coming. Erik was right - go into this cold and be prepared for a life-changing experience.

This film wasn't made to win awards or, for that matter, even be criticized. It was made to tell a story and to capture forever the life of one man and the many people he touched. It achieved just that - it told a story that moved me and that showed me that even one person can have an impact on so many others. Although I was admittedly depressed coming out of the film, the glimmer of hope that it had at the end was all that I needed to walk out and try and become a better person and live a better life. I praise Kurt Kuenne for having the heart and determination to perfectly put together one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever watched.

Why oh why, Sundance, did you decide to skip over this? Unless it wasn't submitted as a potential film, I'm surprised and shocked that you would have missed the opportunity to showcase something this astounding! Maybe it was too profound and realistic for them to show, or maybe they just missed the idea entirely. Either way, consideration for showing (or seeing) this film shouldn't be based on the technical aspects, but purely on what it can achieve as a piece of cinematic art (if it can even be called that). Every last person who steps foot into a theater to see this will walk away changed. And that's the problem - not enough people are getting the chance to see it.

The best I can do is reiterate what Erik said in his review. If you are a film festival programmer: play this; if you are a distributor: buy this; if you are a movie-goer like me: see this. It's a shame that Sundance missed the opportunity to give Dear Zachary some extra attention, but looking towards the future, I'm sure it will gain the appreciation and recognition it deserves soon enough.

Dear Zachary

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  • Heckle
    Man i want to see this now.
  • twispious
    This was very convincing.I don't think I'll be able to watch it in the cinema though-my days of bawling in public are long gone,so I'll wait for the DVD and break down in the comfort of home.
  • Accordion27
    I too saw this film almost entirely blind on the recommendation of a friend who had seen it almost by accident the first time it screened during SXSW. Amazingly moving, one of the best I saw during the festival. I talked with director Kurt Kuenne after the second screening and he said that he was days away from signing a distribution contract which will hopefully get this film a wide theatrical release, if not an Academy rollout. For those of you up north, the film will play the Sarasota Film Festival and the Hot Docs festival in Toronto. If and when you get the chance to see this film, take it.
  • julie alexander
    the best documentation of how the legal system is a failure. To say i enjoyed this movie would be wrong but once it began watching i could not have stopped if i wanted to. This needs to win all the awards! what a wonderful tribute to not only the father and son but also the grandparents. My prayers are with them. That lady was pure evil and although i want her to rot in hell forever, i trust God to take care of her. At least i believe that the father and son are together now.
  • Mari Garcia
    I saw this documentary on Saturday Dec. 6, 2008 and was overwhelmed with grief for the parents of Andrew and baby Zachary (oh what a sweet baby!) He looked identical like his daddy it was incredible. That bitch Shirley didnt deserve to be in the same world as her adorable and innocent baby. How could they justice system fail Zachary, Kate, and David? What a tragedy that chilled me to the bone. I saw the evilness in Shirley's eyes and that cocky smile she gave made me feel in depth the anger and hatred you can see in David as he lashed out at that "bitch" I could literally feel what he was feeling at that moment. I wish someone could have listened to them and never given her the right she felt she deserved in having the baby. What she did to her other kids and Andrew's son, his family and friends is utterly ATROCIOUS!! I hope the effort they are making in lobbying for the laws to change works. It is too late for Zachary and his loving grandparents but they can help someone else's Andrew and Zachary. Protect them from evil women like Shirley Turner , that crazy bitch!!!!!!!!!
  • Sarah Kong
    Watching this documentary showed me how precious life is. My trust for the government has gone away. Shirley Turner is a no-good bitch. I feel truly sorry for Kate and David, their lives had taken a downturn after the death of their beloved son, Andrew. I was overthrown by the grief of these two atrocious deaths. How could she have killed a wonderful man like Andrew, and a sweet innocent baby like Zachary? I hope Andrew and Zachary Bagby will rest in peace; and I hope Shirley Turner,the devil women, will burn in hell.
  • A letter to the son from the father? I think this is very intersting, and I believe the son will be greatly moved by the letter years late.
  • Pham
    Joanna I hope u watched already the doc. We watched it the other day in holland without reading the reviews first. At the last bit of the film me and my husband was hoping that it's not true, was just a big joke, we can still do something for zachary and family and both of us are crying and was so crushed. We hope that Kate and David can still enjoy life, we wish we could hug them. I hope finally somebody in the government will listen to what they say. And for the people in the government who didn't care about the death of Andrew and didn't care about Zachary and his grandparents.....how u people can still sleep? For the Kurt, thanks for showing and sharing this film. A must see!
  • Cris M
    Just saw this for the first time today!  I can't begin to express my feelings, emotions, and angst!  At the end of the film it stated that last year the law had been finally changed to reflect the proper handling of a prisoner acused of a heinous crime and we can all only hope that some Liberal Judge doesn't make the same mistakes as the morons who ran the show up in New Foundland those many years ago!  This is a powerful documentary that has life long profounding effects on us all!  Excellent job Kurt, I'm confident Andrew and Zachary are together out there somewhere waiting for the rest of us!

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