Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father (2008) (Documentary)
Grade: A-

This is the most depressing and gut wrenching documentary I have ever seen. Never in my life have I sobbed like this during a documentary. The pure emotion that is contained in this film is something to behold. The film has flaws. Its totally biased and makes no effort to even be in the slightest objective. But for me in this case it does not matter. The film was made by the very good friend of Andrew Bagby who had been shot to death 5 times by his ex girlfriend Shirley Turner. She has a son Zachary that is Andrew's. Kate and David are Andrew's parents and they want to raise the kid themselves instead of letting their son's murderer raise him who fled the country and is now walking free in Canada her home country. The film follows Kate and David's experience trying to gain custody of Zachary as well as interviews with tons of people who knew Anthony. Kurt the filmmaker has pure rage and wants to give you as much high voltage emotion as possible so you can feel what everyone in the film feels. You feel like you know ANthony as a person by the end and you hate it that he is dead. Absolutely hate it. It breaks you. You want to hug Kate and David who go through so much in the course of this film and who are truly incredible people. And then something happens as Kurt is making this film. Something horrible that cuts you to pieces and I'm still trying to put myself back together.

I liked the fast way it was edited together because I felt that it served the purposes of Kurt very well. He's not looking for a slow experience. He wants to overflow you with the emotions and try to put the unaware viewer as closely aligned with what these people are feeling as possible. He want us to feel the passion and love that everyone had for Anthony. And to see the scope of how many people loved him because so many people did. Its a film about emotion and anger and sadness and because the filmmaker is first hand strongly connected to the subject matter, with other films this might cause some problems objectively but here it helps the film and gives it a life that most documentaries do not have because they are too busy trying to be unbiased. The iflm makes no attempt to excuse Turner for her actions, frankly nor should it. I would have liked to learn more about her and her problems and it sucked learning that she has kids at the end of the film and seeing that they were not interviewed about what she was like. Why? Because Kurt, Kate, David and anyone watching the film who knew Anthony do not give a shit about Shirley and her issues. They hate her. And considering what happens later in the film....jesus.

So in conclusion another documentary from 2008 that is better than "Man on Wire". One that is not perfect from an objective point of view but in a way if they had fixed these errors, the film would be more flawed. So in a way its perfect. It is the rare case in which a documentary that relies on pure emotion and subjectiveness is all the better for it. Bring a couple of boxes of tissues to this film.....Seriously. You will sob. And if you don't cry than you are inhuman as another reviewer wrote of the people watching this film.

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