2008 // USA // Kurt Kuenne // November 15, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Tivoli Theater)
There's really no faulting Kurt Kuenne's intentions or zeal in Dear Zachary, a remembrance of his friend Andrew Bagby that is as unabashedly canonizing in its treatment of the man as it is scathing in its assessment of his death. A young doctor just beginning his career in family practice, Bagby touched people across nations and oceans with his friendship and humor, before he was brutally gunned down by his lunatic girlfriend. Kuenne initially undertook Dear Zachary as a cinematic letter to Andrew's infant son, born to the accused murderess soon after the crime. Frenetic in its pacing and bursting with pride and love for Andrew, the film zips across the world in search of a comprehensive portrait of the man's life. As the girlfriend's extradition proceedings crawl along concurrently, the director discovers a legion of people who adored Andrew, as well as unexpected dimensions to his life (Kuenne had no idea his friend was an amateur photographer.) The film's hiccups are essentially stylistic, including a histrionic and sneering tone to the true crime elements that undercuts Dear Zachary's naked humanity. Still, can you blame Kuenne? His closeness to the story is both its weakness and the key to its power.