Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

this is a movie that is a little out of my usual film palate, but i thought it was a very interesting take on the documentary and true crime genre! i initially saw it on a friend's letterboxd top 4 and thought it was an arthouse film, only to realise that it was a real story. it's basically about the murder of andrew bagby and his son, zachary turner in newfoundland, and the film was made by kurt kuenne, a dear friend of andrew. as someone who did not know about the bagby/turner case beforehand, i was very engaged in the story, so much so that i kind of let down the critical lens when experiencing the film.

to be fair, i dont think this is the kind of movie that should solely be viewed through a cinematic and critical perspective, because it's so much more than that. i cried a LOT during the movie because of how tragic and heartbreaking the story was. surprisingly the parts that made me the most emotional were not the highly dramatised "plot twists" or sequences, but rather the plain words of all the people kurt interviewed. it was honestly so touching to see how a single person could have had such a vast positive effect on entire communities and families. really something to think about!

i know a lot of people found the film completely devastating, but it's so beautiful to me because of how life-giving it was. i loved how kurt framed the movie as a tribute to these people who experienced unjust deaths, and also andrew's parents. the film ends with a call to action, urging viewers to support local legislative reform and to support the various scholarships/foundations that andrew's family set up in honour of him.

going back to my (somewhat lack of) critical analysis of the film, i think my only gripe with the film would be perhaps some of the poor stylistic choices. after going on letterboxd and reading how others felt uncomfortable with the heavy editing and hyperbolized scenes, i can see why some people may think it is in poor taste. i remember a review saying "a film making you cry a lot isn't necessarily a good thing", and i was like oh! you're kinda right

but at the same time, i dont think that i, as a stranger on the internet, have the right to tell kurt kuenne, andrew's PERSONAL FRIEND, that his filmmaking techniques were reductive and insensitive. i fully believe that he had genuine and upright intentions, but i can also see how some of the scenes would rub viewers the wrong way.

honestly a very impactful film that i would definitely recommend to people, especially if you've never heard about the bagby/turner case. it's thought-provoking and breathes life into such tragic deaths. rest in peace to andrew bagby and zach turner.

- j