These are amazing technological times we live in. Computer access and self-publishing allows every budding author to dream of crashing the New York Times Bestseller list. The ease of digital photography (and the subsequent posting on the Internet) feeds the fantasies of every Ansel Adams wannabe. Of course, availability doesn’t necessarily translate into talent and so a proliferation of mediocrity clutters our senses.
But then a movie like “Dear Zachary” appears and one’s artistic world turns topsy-turvy.
“Dear Zachary” isn’t easy to categorize. It’s not really a documentary. There are no experts spouting statistics, no clever graphs or pie charts. But it is based on actual occurrences. It’s not really an extended home movie. Director/composer Kurt Kuenne has been making films since boyhood and though his initial intent may have been a visual memoir for a friend’s son, “Dear Zachary” is a story with a wider appeal and more diverse audience than the typical beach shots taken every summer by most vacationers.
Filmmaker Kuenne was friends with Dr. Andrew Bagby long before he went to medical school. In fact, Bagby (a ringer for the actor, Jack Black) starred in Kuenne’s early film efforts starting as a preteen: That accounts for wonderful footage of the boy growing to manhood. Friends abound in the young man’s life and his parents, David and Kathleen, are justifiably proud of their only son.
While completing his residency in family practice in Latrobe, Pa., Andrew Bagby is stalked and killed by an ex-girlfriend who is ultimately charged with his murder. Not only do David and Kathleen have to endure the tragic news of their son’s death, but a few months later they learn his charged murderer is pregnant with their grandson.
The court case is complicated and the struggle for visitation rights frustrating, but the Bagbys persevere. What happens in the ensuing months on a personal and judicial level is maddening, the tragic outcome, devastating.
What makes “Dear Zachary” unique? First, the viewer gets to know and admire Kathleen and David, regular people trying to do the right thing. When the camera switches to the couple sitting on their living room couch, you feel like you’re in the room. They could be your neighbors. You’d want them to be your neighbors!
So many people come and go in one’s life and countless computer discs with pictures go unviewed by anyone. There’s always a drawer stuffed full of photos waiting to be labeled and placed in an album and eventually shared with friends. With the thought that baby Zachary should know what a wonderful man his father was, Kuenne took the time to interview friends from the neighborhood and from college. Even colleagues he had never met shared their memories of Andrew Bagby for this video tribute.
Rarely does a novel idea or a movie script resemble the finished product. And “Dear Zachary” is no exception. In this case reality got in the way. The outcome is unimaginable. The outcome is reality.
Not having watched any of the current barrages of reality television shows, I can’t comment on their validity. Are they scripted? Probably. Manipulated for rating results? Most assuredly. Can the bar be lowered any farther in the name of entertainment? Alas, yes.
However, in the hands of a caring, intelligent individual, a compelling story can be told. A film can encourage humanity to see the potential for good where evil dwelt. And a man’s memory, a guy like Andrew Bagby whom few would have known otherwise, can inspire others to make a difference in the world.
Rebecca Redshaw is an author and playwright who worked for 25 years in the film industry in Los Angeles.
Copies of her book, “SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs,” may be purchased at the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Politics, political figures and spies
Tue, Mar 6, 2012
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
And now, reality
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Looking back on the year that was (Part 1 of 2)
Wed, Dec 7, 2011
Film buffs should revisit ‘Northwest’
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
Conspiracy theories played out on film
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Mix-ups, marriage and horse management
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Going ‘Grease,’ locally and on DVD
Tue, Sep 13, 2011
It’s All About the Music
Fri, Sep 9, 2011