The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Love, rage and tears – about a letter you shouldn’t miss

with 16 comments

“Mum, I’m not sure I want to go to New York”.

This statement from my youngest daughter took me by surprise. We’de been speaking for a while about possibly going there for a vacation next spring and as our plans started to get more concrete I would have expected her to be jumping with joy.

“Why? You loved New York, don’t you remember? I thought you too wanted to go there again as much as I do?”

“Well, you know. I watched that documentary you recommended to me. I don’t trust their legal system anymore and you really shouldn’t support a country like that”.

The documentary she referred to which had made such an impression that she started to reconsider her travel plans was Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father. I had watched it a few days earlier and then insisted on her doing the same. “I will make you cry your heart out, but you need to see it. It will make you want to become a better human being”.

Surprisingly enough, considering she’s 18 year old, she actually listens to her mother and do as I tell her, at least as long as it comes to movies. After a bunch of successful recommendations it seems as if I’ve earned her trust.

So she watched it, but unlike me she didn’t settle for crying for a while, making a vague promise to herself to become a better human being. She was so upset that she wanted to act according to her beliefs.

I don’t want to get into details about the film, since I think it adds a little something to it if you don’t know where the twists in it eventually will take you. Speaking for myself, it ended in a place that I hadn’t expected at all. This said: even if you know the story I think it’s a perfectly good documentary.

Love and rage
The question is:  how can I describe it without spoiling it? Well, I think I’ll give the word to the filmmaker Kurt Kuenne as he makes an introduction:

“On the afternoon on November 7th 2001 my sister called to tell me that doctor Andrew Bagby, my closest friend since the age of 7, had been killed. My name is Kurt and I’m a filmmaker. Andrew appeared in every movie I made growing up. I decided to make a movie, to travel far and wide, to interview everyone who ever knew and loved Andrew.”

And since it’s revealed in the title, I can also say that Zachary, who the film is made for, is the son of Andrew, who he never met since he was born after Andrew’s death.

As much as it gives a loving portray of Andrew and the people who were close to him, this is also a film full of rage on behalf of people fighting for their rights in a malfunctioning court system. But perhaps more than anything else it’s a film that makes you think, about your own mortality and about the traces you leave in people’s lives.

The question is unavoidable: if I was murdered today, what would I leave behind? Can I truthfully say that I’ve done my best, that my life wasn’t wasted, that I’ve made a difference to the world, if ever so small?

And what if it was someone close to me who got murdered in the way Andrew did? Could I ever gather the strength and courage that Andrew’s parents show?

New York
So what about New York? Well, I decided not to argue whether you actually can affect the court system in a country by not going there as a tourist. Instead I went for geography.

“You know, I don’t think it was the US court system that had the biggest issues here. I think most of the blame was on Canada.

She gave me a look. And I know our New York trip was saved.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father (Kurt Kuenne, US 2008) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

November 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Dear Zachary

16 Responses

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  1. I just read the summary on Wikipedia. Holy crap… what a horrible way for things to end.

    Having read the summary, it would appear that you should avoid people from Iowa. Having lived in Iowa, I can verify that claim.


    November 21, 2012 at 8:10 am

    • The film doesn’t leave you in a place as dark as you may think though. But I cried. A flood.

      You should swee it even if you jumped right into the spoiler section.


      November 21, 2012 at 10:03 am

  2. I think this is one of the best documentaries ever made and it made me feel empty for a couple of days. In a recent interview I did with Kuenne he told me that the legal system was actually changed because of this film and what the grandparents did.


    November 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

    • You’ve interviewed Kuenne? Wow! How did I miss that? Link, please!


      November 21, 2012 at 11:20 am

      • Well, it was about another movie of his, but I did ask him one question which was about the link of that movie to Dear Zachary.

        You can read it here:


        November 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

        • Thank you! Can’t believe I missed it. It’s a wonderful interview and I’m super-envious about you getting it. Great read!


          November 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

          • I was extremely excited to be able to interview him. I just happened to get into contact with him after I sent an email to the email address on the Shuffle site because it was not available in Europe yet. When I saw he was the one who responded I just had to ask if I could interview him once I saw it and he agreed to do it.


            November 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm

            • How did you get hold on Shuffle? At Amazon UK it’s only available in US region edition.


              November 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

              • Regio free player 😉 Most DVD players can be easily made region free just by typing in a code on the remote. I think I bought mine like that, because I used to import quite a lot.


                November 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  3. Nice little personal touch to your review as always Jessica. I’ve got this film sitting in my shelf. I’ve had it for years, yet I’ve never watched it. I really must sort that out.

    Mark Walker

    November 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    • Thanks Mark! What are you waiting for? You should see it. But be prepared with tissues.


      November 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  4. Great post as always, Jessica. I really need to check out that doc. Everyone says it’s incredibly moving.


    November 23, 2012 at 8:04 am

  5. Dear Zachary will wreck the toughest of people. It’s such a well made documentary and effects so greatly. Reading this post I was thinking to myself “well it was more so Canada…” but then you got there at the end haha.


    December 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    • Hehe, yeah it was my little attempt to frame the story. 🙂
      It’s a wonderful film, really. I want to see his newest movie if I can find a way to get one that I can play on my DVD player.


      December 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

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