Saturday, 19 January 2013

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

In November 2001, the body of Dr Andrew Bagby was discovered in a parking lot at a US national park. He had been shot five time: in the face, the back of the head, the chest and the buttocks. An ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner, who had been harassing him since their break up had lured him to the remote spot and murdered him.

Shortly after her arrest and release on bail, she fled to her hometown, and the place she met Andrew, in Newfoundland, Canada. During the early stages of the extradition process, in which Andrew's parents tried desperately to get Turner returned to the US for trial, Turner announced that she was pregnant with her victim's child and set in motion this documentary.

Kurt Kuenne was a friend of Andrews since they met in school, and he was determined that even if his son had to grow up in the arms of his killer, he was going to know how great of a person his dad was. Kuenne set off on an inspirational road trip across the US and bits of Canada. He met everyone he could find that Andrew had influenced in his packed 28 years. From coast to coast Kuenne visits people from throughout the different stages of Andrews life: his close family, extended family, people from school, people from university and medschool and the people he worked with, both colleagues and patients. It paints a moving tribute of a man that would have been a rolemodel to fathers everywhere and is a monument to the positive influence he had on so many lives.

The film is more than a tribute though, it functions as a critical investigative documentary. Much criticism, laid out by Andrew's parents mostly, is made of the justice systems in the US and Canada, as well as the relations between the two. The film was made as the case was on-going as well, and there is a change in mood at one point that comes straight out of left field and will punch you right in the emotions as you shift from tribute to crime-documentary.

Dear Zachary takes the audience on a distressing emotional rollercoaster where the highs only feel like consolation prizes, the angers are burning and the depressing depths are as deep as they are hard hitting. Honestly if you don't feel some degree of either crushing sadness or real anger after watching the film I'm convinced you're just broken inside. 

The film does inspire in some ways though. There are some incredibly strong people on show here. Andrew's parents are such good and resilient people that it reminds us that, although there are some real monstrous people out there, there are also some very good people. It's a terrible shame that a child from such good parents had his life cut so short.

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