Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Director: Kurt Kuenne
Year Released: 2008
Rating: 2.5

When director Kuenne's good friend Dr. Andrew Bagby was found murdered in Latrobe, PA by his former (psychotic) girlfriend, Shirley Turner, he decided to make a private documentary about Bagby for the child he had with that very same girlfriend, Zachary, but as real-life got progressively weirder and more tragic, the more he felt compelled to keep filming. As heartbreaking as the story is, this is another one of those 'self-therapy movies' (like Tarnation), with Kuenne forgoing anything remotely close to objectivity and actually ramping the energy level way up, with frenzied editing and endless scenes of people sobbing, keeping the camera fixed on their swollen, tear-soaked faces: there's no distance; it's just anger, a (problematic) use of Cinema as Tool for Vengeance. It goes without saying that Shirley Turner was a loon, but is it out of line to wonder why Kuenne didn't include more footage of people that knew her (there's a quick clip of her one son) instead of being juvenile and showing her at her most ridiculous (silly on the dance floor, making bizarre faces, throwing a ball at Zachary's head)? If this 'documentary' - or the efforts of the Bagby Family - succeeds in getting those in the Canadian Justice System fired, or getting more laws enacted to prevent horrors like this from re-occurring, the more power to them - but as far as documenting tragedy is concerned, strange and terrible events like this are (regrettably) a daily occurrence: human nature produces dangerous freaks.