Author Topic: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father  (Read 5931 times)

TaylorRoesch

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2009, 08:22:46 PM »
Quote
This.

so not that


I'll take a little of this. 


Also, this guy definitely got his film promoted pretty well.  If I remember correctly they played Dear Zachary on MSNBC.  Not bad for a first documentary. 

Beavermoose

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2010, 11:34:36 AM »
An emotionally manipulative film. It did exactly what it attempted to do.
As a Canadian however I was frustrated as to how the filmmaker portrayed Canada and seemed to be implying that these things would never have happened in the US. I sighed.

oldkid

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2010, 11:36:53 AM »
An emotionally manipulative film. It did exactly what it attempted to do.
As a Canadian however I was frustrated as to how the filmmaker portrayed Canada and seemed to be implying that these things would never have happened in the US. I sighed.

I didn't get the sense that he was thinking it never would have happened in the U.S.  Rather, he was just pointing out a wrong in the community-- which is a rich North American tradition.
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Melvil

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2010, 12:56:33 PM »
An emotionally manipulative film. It did exactly what it attempted to do.
As a Canadian however I was frustrated as to how the filmmaker portrayed Canada and seemed to be implying that these things would never have happened in the US. I sighed.

I don't remember him saying anything about how it would've been handled anywhere else. It was clear there were failings in Canada's system, and that's all that was relevant.

Beavermoose

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2010, 11:59:00 PM »
You guys are probably right, I retract my statement. To be fair I saw it almost a year and a half ago and all I remember was my ego being hurt.

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2010, 09:40:12 AM »
You guys are probably right, I retract my statement. To be fair I saw it almost a year and a half ago and all I remember was my ego being hurt.

I actually think that he especially wanted Canadians to see it and be angered enough to inquire about it to their MPs. From what I remember there were laws passed recently based on the case.
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¡Keith!

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2010, 01:55:28 PM »
crosstown double feature, with interesting intermission

Dear Zachary, A Letter to a Son About a Father (Kuenne, 2008, at Siskel Film Center)

saccharine love-letter to a murdered friend.  i think i spent too much time on the film's website reading positive press-clippings, i thought this was going to be good, interesting, or innovative.  nope.  nope.  and nope.  with the story, it couldn't help but evoke emotion, but too often it felt too easy.  guy is murdered, shortly after the murder word gets out he had gotten a woman pregnant, a childhood friend and now film-maker decides to make a scrapvideo of friends recounting memories about the little tyke's dead dad; as luck would have it (for the film-maker, otherwise this is a whole lot of home movie), the plot twists and thickens.  sure it gets the tears rolling, but again, how could it not?  worse than the cliché story and approach, the film is horribly socially conservative throughout, assuredly not aware of what kind of social positions are being reified in the process.  sloppy and thoughtless film.  feel free to miss it, even for the eventual video/cable run.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)



Self-serving, manipulative, sappy, heavy-handed, unforgettable. Filmspot eligible?

Dear Zachary

Its hard to make a judgement on whether this is a 'good' documentary. It is structured so that the emotional impact will be intense and unexpected. I feel a bit manipulated. Still, it was gut-wrenchingly painful. I think this is a story that needed to be remembered on film.

Real Grade: B
Emotional Devastation Grade: A+

Yeah, I watched this last night and I agree with you.  I had some problems with the editing, and I think that the structure is a bit manipulative, but the story is completely devastating and heartbreaking, and I thought the director ended the film in a really wonderful way. 


Dear Zachary (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)

As lots of people here have already mentioned, this doc is utterly personal, one-sided and manipulative. Despite the warnings about how I was going to need a box of tissues to get through this one, I didn't really know anything about the story going in. I feel like I've just been hit by a ton of bricks. As duder already mentioned, unforgettable.

Dear Zachary

***1/2 /****


OH MY GOD! I am so angry right now!

Dear Zachary...[/b]



But I didn't know that going in to Dear Zachary. 

Dear Zachary was just the opposite: it plays out like real life.  You don't know what's going to happen-- you don't know that anything is going to happen, but you have hints of what might come.  It is a powerful story told by a  storyteller with a remarkable voice.  The editing was marvelous, and I left the movie both stunned and remarkably pleased to have the opportunity to know these people.  It is just a pleasure to behold.  4.5/5


Dear Zachary

While I have some major issues with the editing techniques and sound design.  Thankfully the film is so interesting and devastating that it holds your attention.  Also, Andrew's parents are a massive screen presence and their emotion and convictions are well articulated and formed for the audience.  Again, some of the filmmaking I think hurts the effectiveness of certain scenes.  Still, I recommend it to all.

Grade B+

i especially liked the father's convictions concerning "the bitch", which he spat out multiple times with such venom that i was just as repulsed with him as with the murderess.  his aggressive law and order vibe didn't help his case, either.

Umm, she killed their daughter and granddaughter. Bitch is the least of what I would call her. She deserves to be called a lot worse.

I think skjerva is bothered by the sexism of it. I'm not sure he even meant it in a sexist way, but even if he did, I still don't see it as anywhere near as horrible as what was done by her to his family.

Dear Zachary is one of my favorite docs of all time, and one of my favorite films of it's year. All I'm saying is that as a female, I wish he would have chosen another word. He has every right to call this woman whatever he wants, and I'll even agree to the fact that she is a bitch. In fact, I think that's a very mild word for her. The term bitch is not gender neutral. I'm so rarely offended by things done in movies, this was just an anomaly that got to me a little bit.

someone deleted my previous post.  my point is that there is something about the way he refers to the woman as a bitch to release his anger, as i wrote before, if the killer had been black and he would have used the slur nigger, i am guessing people would also think the slur was inappropriate and disgusting, but because bitch is a slur demeaning women, it is seemingly acceptable.  and i really can't believe that anyone believes anyone here is equating killing someone with calling someone a slur, that is utterly ridiculous.  the point is that making such slurs is disgusting.

I really hate his use of the word "bitch" in that movie. I just see him going down to her level, even if it's just for a second. He's smarter and more articulate than that for the rest of the film.

Come on you just equated a man calling the woman, who murdered his son and grandson, a bitch with the murder itself. This is ludicrous.

Of course slurs are disgusting. But would he call a black person a nigger under the same circumstance? Who knows? I certainly don't, and I wouldn't presume to say he would. In this day and age "bitch" is barely considered a slur. That's probably a bad thing, but it is the way it is. It's unfortunate that there are so many words denigrating women and so few that do the same for men, but that's a societal issue. Here we have a man so absolutely angry that he allows himself to lose control for a moment and call her a bitch. Does he mean it to say that all women are terrible? I doubt it, considering the loving relationship he seems to have with his wife. He calls her a bitch, with such force, because that is the word that jumps to his head and he blurts it out. And I'm sure the director left those scenes in the film just because it is hard to hear him say it. Sometimes it IS hard to hear people get angry and lose control of their emotions, and that makes Dear Zachary all the more powerful.

he is still a completely sympathetic character whose gender politics cannot be considered as a valid topic of discussion.

It doesn't seem to me that he has any "gender politics". He's just a guy with a socially learned vocabulary, just like the rest of us.

of course i agree that "it is probably a bad thing", except i do think it is a bad thing:)  that said, we all have control over the words we use.  and i do think that when we use language like this we perpetuate ways of being and thinking.  had the guy not used the slur bitch, and had just continued to act all tormented, i am sure we would come away with exactly the same sense of his anguish and hatred.  i agree with you that his use and the seeming nonchalance at his use of bitch reflects social attitudes, but i don't think that is a good thing, or excuses it.  again, had the word that jumped to his head been "nigger" there would likely be a different identification with the character.  and to claim that the socially learned vocabulary isn't gender politics is also weird - what are gender politics if not expressions of socially learned actions, whether language or non-language acts? 

When you say "gender politics" you imply that he is politically motivated or affected.

And I agree that his use of the word perpetuates such thinking, but to me his use of it comes from a deeply distraught place. Why not attack all the uses of "bitch" on primetime television or in so many other movies instead? Give this guy a pass. As well, you say that he uses the word with "seeming nonchalance", but that isn't correct at all. He may not think about the word he uses or whether he should be using it, but every time he uses it he is in a highly emotional state. We all say things we hardly mean when we are angry (I'm sure even you do) and I'm sure if you went to have a conversation with the father and explained to him that the use of the word "bitch" is actually offensive and perpetuates certain social attitudes he might just agree with you and try to curb his use of it in the future. But then again, he might be totally sexist and hate women. I don't really know, but I can tell you that in the film he doesn't come off that way.

BUT just to play some Devil's advocate.

Let's say he does say it from a place of hating (or at least being very angry with women) would you disagree that the judicially activist decisions that kept her around were also inherently sexist? That just because she is a mother she deserves rights regarding her child whereas if it had been a father he likely wouldn't have gotten the same rights?

I remember a couple years ago two fathers dressed up as superheroes and climbed atop Canadian Federal MP, Jack Layton's house in Toronto. They were there to protest Layton and his wife's political views on the rights of fathers in divorce cases. They argued that the family law system in Canada was unfairly favourable toward women and specifically mothers. And those guys were not far off in their arguments at all.

There is sexism all over the place, and it's not even always in the places you would suspect. It all begs the question: why do you get hung up on the words of a man who likely doesn't even realize what he's saying? The emotions that cause him to say those things are the important part, and those emotions are actually what make it a great film.

If I were you I'd be more intent on going on a crusade against filth like The Ugly Truth, which serves only to further ingrain modern sexist ways of thinking in the minds of a mass audience, than the emotional sputtering of a truly defeated man in a documentary unfortunately seen by too few.

Hey everybody, great debate, but if it continues, maybe it should head over to the Dear Zachary thread.

Helpful!


Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father  (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
I'd been both eager and terrified to watch this for a while now, from even before worm posted her review.  I went in very prepared to get so emotionally involved and devastated that all the dumb stylistic choices wouldn't bother me.  Easier said then done, though, given how awful so much of the editing is, how off-putting the general aesthetic, and how self-destructive much of the editorializing is.  There's still a very nobel effort at the heart of the film, though.  I appreciate that collage it creates of Andrew's life, the presentation of that collage to Zachary, and the hyper-personal nature of it all.  I think Kuenne was successful in making a film that Andrew would have loved, and that's great.  But that didn't stop me from pretty much hating it.  First and foremost, I have a thing about movies that tease the possible death of a child for cheap suspense.  Totally unforgivable.  Actually, that's not quite true.  I might have been okay with it in a verite presentation of these events.  But no way can I excuse that in a film this constructed.  But that manipulation didn't turn me off as much as the playful style.  I wanted the film to make me feel, but it worked against that at most turns.  I did laugh at Mack, whose brief interview is so fantastic that even Kuenne knew better than to interrupt it with distracting B-roll.  And I felt the pang of the line, "I'd never seen a coffin that small.  They shouldn't come in that size."  And the montage near the end of the interviewees turning the tables on the interviewer was pretty effective, even though Kuenne rushed through it.  I also liked the film's redefining of its audience near the end.  That was a nice idea.  But these good directorial choices were the exception.  For the most part, the film left me numb.  Sorry.
Grade: C-
yeah, i'd still say you are being generous with that C-, but your criticisms are right on, i'd just heap a few more on. and the bit under your second spoiler-tag did nothing for me, not to say i wasn't suckered in to emoting different moments, just not that one

Dear Zachary

One of the most powerful things in the first half here is just how obvious the crime was. In an age of Law and Order and CSI, there seems to be the impression that most murders are tricky. They aren’t, most murders are obvious. People aren’t good criminals and they commit crimes against people who are close to them, thus making them easy suspects. It is a true crime story that represents how these things actually are.

The stakes in terms of who would raise his child and the frame for the film, as explaining to the son who the father he’d never know was is just incredibly gripping as an entry point into this story. This documentary makes no effort at a neutral approach. It has a firm perspective and a firm structure of story telling. Some seem to take issue with documentaries of this sort, but I think it makes it that much more powerful. It gives it energy and heart. One problem with reality though, you can't take it to task for being over the top horrible.

This definitely made a strong case come Filmspot voting.


Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
So much seething anger and vitriol in this film. So much transparent emotional manipulation and dodgy aesthetic choices. The endless testimonials made for a monotonous tone, reminiscent of those sappy bits - the mawkish closing shots or testimonials - that you see at the end of documentaries or movies, but repeated every two minutes!
Having written that, I completely agree with the anger, especially since I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Once the even nastier bit at the end happened, I of course had to reinterpret the tone of the preceding hour. So, the animated mouths bit: reintepreted. The choking-up Kuenne voiceover: reinterpreted. All of that transparent anger and polemic: reinterpreted. Do I feel dirty, sullied by this trick? A little. But not too much. Kuenne basically throws anything but subjectivity out the window straight from the beginning, and, you know, I'd have to say "Why the CINECAST not?" too. It felt good, though, going in blind, and then getting treated that way. Easy moral outrage? Sure. Agonising tragedy? Hell yes. It's just that there's some sort of aftertaste that I can't quite get rid of... it could be 94 minutes of constant hyperbole, but who gives a s**t, really?


Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)

 Kuenne basically throws anything but subjectivity out the window straight from the beginning,

Why are people surprised by this (I am not saying you were but many people comment on this)? The movie is made by his best friend! Of course it subjective. It could not possibly be anything else. It would be the worst documentary ever made if it tried to be the slightest bit objective.


Dear Zachary - A deeply unpleasant film to watch, for a variety of reasons.  First, and most obviously is the plot, in which the filmmaker chronicles the tragic circumstances around his friend's murder and the custody battle the murdered friend's parents fought with the accused murderer.  This part of the story is both depressing as hell and strains harder to pull your tears than anything I've seen in awhile.  Second is the filmmaking style: much of the film is made up of home movies, and the original material isn't much more interesting to look at, but that's mostly OK.  The editing and soundtrack are hyperactively cut together, constantly underlining and all capping every emotion the filmmaker wants you to feel (and those emotions are very black and white: everyone in the film is great except for the villain, who is the devil or the government, whose side of the story (whatever it is) remains untold).  Finally, the film simply made me feel very uncomfortable, not so much because it's "misery porn", but because of the voyeurism of it all.  It felt like an overdose of reality TV, or those tragic memoirs that get featured on Oprah or Dr. Phil or something.  I find that kind of thing deeply unsettling, which perhaps makes me strange, but I don't want to see strangers' home movies and I don't want to read their diaries.  If the film was 15 minutes long, say a story on 60 Minutes or something, I probably wouldn't have had that objection to it.  Or if it was a fictional story, I certainly wouldn't have.  I don't quite understand why that is.  Perhaps it has to do with the specificity and intimacy of the storytelling preventing the kind of abstraction or generalization or distance that allows me to relate comfortably to the narrative.

All in the last group:

7)
Standard Operating Procedure
Dear Zachary
WALL-E
Encounters At the End Of The World
Here is skjerva's review of Dear Zachary.

pixote

I have those other 3 at an A-,  Seems I'll really enjoy Dear Z.

I was right!

A deeply personal story - how else do you attempt to affect your own emotions in other without manipulation?  Recitation of facts cannot, does not, and will never accomplish this.  The viewer needs to be slapped with the same raw reactions and changes in circumstances that affected the filmmaker.  The viewer should be drug through the same situations - the waiting the pain, the shock - as the filmmaker, if the idea is to replicate the emotional state of the filmmaker in the audience.  DZ sets out to do this and it succeeds. 

I found there was a shade of an attack on the Canadian system - the comparison is made late with the letters and evidence that the grandparents had to get in California - but it also showed praise in the system in the ability for review and change when evidence was presented to its failure.  In addition there was quite a bit of love shown to the people in general while singling out those that the filmmaker thought of as culpable for a murder. 

One section that stood out for me as glaring - the "evidence" of Shirley's instability was presented in the film with the line "if anyone had bothered to look" but neglected to say where this responsibility fell.  It seemed to be blaming the judge but it can't possibly be her responsibility to gather evidence, now if that evidence was willfully ignored in a verdict then by all means hold the judge accountable but without it it seemed wrong in hang her out in this way.

sdedalus

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2010, 02:13:15 PM »
The 62nd best film of 2008!
The End of Cinema

Seattle Screen Scene

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tinyholidays

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2010, 12:15:11 AM »
I just watched this streaming from Netflix, which opined that I would think of the film as a 4.6. I guess I've been letting my doc affinity show, as I certainly haven't been rating any Law & Order dvds. Anyway, you all have already hashed out most of what I have to say about Dear Zachary, but I'll go ahead and drop my $1.05 into the freedom cap.

First, I should mention that I don't feel exactly comfortable discussing a film about a subject so personal to the filmmaker. So, I'm going to approach it sideways. What's the purpose of Dear Zachary? We can name a few answers -- to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Andrew Bagsby, to show appreciation for Andrew's parents, to indict the justice system dealing with Andrew's murderer, and to spur a feeling of dissatisfaction with and anger toward the legal process shown in the film. In my opinion, the film succeeds in all of these aims.

In the end, however, I didn't click to assign Dear Zachary those suggested five stars. Within the first few frames of the film, I felt distracted and somewhat irritated by the editing techniques. Pacing, repetition, scare tactics... all served to draw me out of and away from the film. If the pacing of the clips and the callback repetition changed, I could probably get totally on board. As it is, I would recommend Dear Zachary to people who like true crime stories, but not to people who go to the theater to experience the art of film. If someone approaches me with a Venn Diagram showing extensive overlap between these two categories, I will pretend to talk to someone who is standing behind them and then run the other way when they look in that direction.

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Re: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2010, 09:29:50 AM »
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father  (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
I'd been both eager and terrified to watch this for a while now, from even before worm posted her review.  I went in very prepared to get so emotionally involved and devastated that all the dumb stylistic choices wouldn't bother me.  Easier said then done, though, given how awful so much of the editing is, how off-putting the general aesthetic, and how self-destructive much of the editorializing is.  There's still a very nobel effort at the heart of the film, though.  I appreciate that collage it creates of Andrew's life, the presentation of that collage to Zachary, and the hyper-personal nature of it all.  I think Kuenne was successful in making a film that Andrew would have loved, and that's great.  But that didn't stop me from pretty much hating it.  First and foremost, I have a thing about movies that tease the possible death of a child for cheap suspense.  Totally unforgivable.  Actually, that's not quite true.  I might have been okay with it in a verite presentation of these events.  But no way can I excuse that in a film this constructed.  But that manipulation didn't turn me off as much as the playful style.  I wanted the film to make me feel, but it worked against that at most turns.  I did laugh at Mack, whose brief interview is so fantastic that even Kuenne knew better than to interrupt it with distracting B-roll.  And I felt the pang of the line, "I'd never seen a coffin that small.  They shouldn't come in that size."  And the montage near the end of the interviewees turning the tables on the interviewer was pretty effective, even though Kuenne rushed through it.  I also liked the film's redefining of its audience near the end.  That was a nice idea.  But these good directorial choices were the exception.  For the most part, the film left me numb.  Sorry.
Grade: C-
smirnoff hates me now!  :-\

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.