Dear Zachary Directed/Written/Produced/Edited by: Kurt Kuenne Running Time: 95 mins Rating: Documentary, unrated Opens: In Portland on November 15 at the Hollywood Theatre
“Law is mind without reason.” ~ Aristotle
I am desensitized. How can you tell? Here’s the test:
What is your first reaction when you see extremely realistic gore in the movies?
1. “Gross! I can see his spleen!” 2. “Wow! Great special effects!” 3. “Ha-ha! That guy was eaten by his own poodle! The irony!” 4. All of the above
When you’re desensitized, by virtue of the very word, things don’t bother you as much. Yes, things upset me, but I tend to get over that quickly. If I’m not able to repress or forget something fast enough, I bury myself in escapism, like books and movies and video games. Soon enough, due to my 21st Century attention span (oh look, a shiny object!), I am once more pleasantly benumbed.
What I end up with is faint emotional responses that act as memories, as in, “that made me sad,” “that made me happy,” “I laughed at that,” but my actual recollections are vague. There are two major exceptions to this: the novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Kuenne’s Dear Zachary. Whereas, everything else mostly bounces off me—sometimes leaving a mild bruise that will be gone in a day or so—Capote’s novel and Kuenne’s documentary made me feel like I’d been shot in the face. Miraculously, I’ll survive it, but I’ll have a piece of lead lodged in my cranium until the day I die.
Dear Zachary is an amalgam of a memorial and a love letter to Kurt Kuenne’s best friend, Andrew Bagby, who was murdered by an ex-girlfriend. Kuenne started the documentary in 2001 when the ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner, announced that she was pregnant with Andrew’s son; the documentary was meant to teach Andrew’s son, Zachary, about the wonderful father he’d never get to know.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you, which is one part respect for the novelty of movie experience and two parts cruelty—I’ve been wounded, and I don’t want to spare you. This documentary is not for really sensitive people; there is no overt violence in it, but it saws its way into your marrow with a jagged edge of raw sorrow and rage. Translation: if you are an extremely sensitive person, you might not survive it when the documentary shoots you in the face. Please bear that in mind.
Dear Zachary begins with Andrew’s murder in 2001 and you go on the actual journey with the filmmaker until the documentary ends in 2006—you are there when he is there, the story itself is not told to you in retrospect. You have no idea how powerful this is, because documentaries shot after the fact inevitably foreshadow what’s going to occur--Dear Zachary does not.
One more thing: ever wonder who the strongest human beings in the world are? The strongest human beings are Kate and David Bagby, Andrew’s parents. You will not believe how powerful and durable these two individuals are—they are still fighting for victim’s rights when most of us would’ve already hung ourselves from the rafters. Kate and David Bagby are the eighth wonder of the modern world.
Dear Zachary is phenomenal, but prepare for the experience to change you. Kuenne includes an old movie he shot when he and Andrew were kids in which Kuenne says to Andrew ("Bags" as his friends call him), "I'm going to build a time machine and go back into time to keep you from dying." If only it could be that simple.
For more information please go to http://www.andrewbagby.com