Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @DocSoupMan.

Doc Soup: ‘Dear Zachary’

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This past Friday, I got one of the many emails I get about upcoming movies and the like. I tend to throw them in the slush pile and try to comb through them when I can. This time, the message wasn’t even about the movie itself, but about the premiere of the trailer for an upcoming doc. I checked it out, and, whoa, I’m pretty interested. The film is called Dear Zachary and here’s the press info on the doc:

Dear Zachary
On November 5, 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was murdered in a parking lot in western Pennsylvania; the prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Dr. Shirley Turner, promptly fled the United States for St. John’s, Canada, where she announced that she was pregnant with Andrew’s child. She named the little boy Zachary.
Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne, Andrew’s oldest friend, began making a film for little Zachary as a way for him to get to know the father he’d never meet. But when Shirley Turner was released on bail in Canada and was given custody of Zachary while awaiting extradition to the United States, the film’s focus shifted to Zachary’s grandparents, David and Kathleen Bagby, and their desperate efforts to win custody of the boy from the woman they knew had murdered their son.

What happened next, no one could have foreseen…

The trailer is here.

It looks pretty incredible, doesn’t it? Of course, whenever people start saying things like “One of the best documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life,” as Erik Davis does over at Cinematical.com, then you have to worry about managing expectations. Still, I’m interested. Maybe this is the next Capturing the Friedmans or My Kid Could Paint That? What do you think?

Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki
  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html upsurp

    FOREIGNID: 17835
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    if this is considered a brilliant documentary—–let me watch POPEYE. take your garbage to “E”. dear zachery made me sick!!! DEAR ZACHERY is so far from a documentary it’s a joke. what is happening to the REAL art??

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html No Good

    FOREIGNID: 17836
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I cannot believe MSNBC is showing this boring Dear Zachery again. No one cares about all those people from the victims past. This film should be a home movie. Really,it’s rather extremely boring to those who do not know any of these people. perhaps a half hour story COULD be poignant, but no one has any interest in the beer, the speeches,etc.. What a waste of T.V. time.

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html No Good

    FOREIGNID: 17837
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I don’t know who made this film but they need to pull “the meat out” and have some consistency of style and music.Too many gimmicks,clumsy and very disjointed. Nah ah–no good at all. A decent story which could be compelling,but ya messed it up real bad. And i’m certain all of those who partook adore it.You do not come close in bringing out how awful a person Shirley was! Too much bunk around the entire thing. I think someone should do a good compilation of “that of interest”. The music could not be worse.

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html ONELAST TIME!

    FOREIGNID: 17838
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Oh, I just saw who the filmaker is:Kuenne. Well, Mr.Kuenne if you are serious about being a filmmaker ——try something you are not so close to. In this film you forgot the “kitchen sink”—-lord knows, ya got everything else in except a good presentation. What a shame to have such wonderful material and it got all swallowed up and way way overdone. Mr.Kuenne,you don’t “have it”. do something else. You made a nice film for those involved but that’s it.

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html ONELAST TIME!

    FOREIGNID: 17839
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    tom roston as awful as i thought dear zachery was—i am so glad to have found your websight i absolutely adore documentaries and never miss the yearly showings @MOMA. but i certainly hope your choices are better than zac.

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html give me a break!!

    FOREIGNID: 17840
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    AGAIN——this schmaltzie mess!

  • James D

    FOREIGNID: 17841
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    To everyone critiquing this film-
    Sure, it may not be as spectacular as the latest action thriller but I believe this film was intended for Zachary. I’m sure the filmmaker wishes he never had to create the film in the first place. Would you spare the time, expense and heart to dedicate such a project to a friend? Or would someone do it for you? If not, I think you could learn a few things from this documentary.

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html give me a break!!

    FOREIGNID: 17842
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    the only thing i learned from this documentary (after suffering through the complete garbage &CORN) is that the justice system is a total disgrace! but, what else is new? O.J.? AND that there are far too many sociopaths on planet earth. that thing–shirley– had absolutely no feeling what-so-ever regarding anyone else except to bestow pain upon them! she enjoyed it! the only person she cared about was HERSELF. and i fear the justice system is as psychopathic as those they prevail over. and—that silly documentary is just feeding into this blind expectation. REALLY this documentary so ignores the heinous actions

  • http://pbs.org/pov/bog/2008/10/doc_soup_dear_zachery_1.html give me a break!!

    FOREIGNID: 17843
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    i would be more than happy to spare the $ time and heart to make a film for friends such as this zac thing —–howsomever— that’s the only place i show it —- is in the privacy of friends homes…..period!!!

  • plstr

    FOREIGNID: 17844
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    i think it is a great documentary. you dont need all the cutsey music, it takes away from the filmakers original purpose. i think it is important that it it shown in it’s original and full state i love this documentary, it shows the good that comes out in people in the worst of times

  • Mark Brown

    FOREIGNID: 17845
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I think people get uncomfortable when they watch a film as personal as “Dear Zachary.” We are used to seeing documentaries that are detached and “objective.” And many of those films are journalistic masterpieces. Hoop Dreams is an example. But I found Zachary to be a brilliant personal reflection on a friend; a skewering reproach of the Canadian justice system’s loopholes; and an incredible telling of a real life noir drama. Kuenne obviously dedicated five or more years of his life to this film. It’s my opinion that his efforts produced an incredibly original, personal and emotionally devastating film.

  • Randy Trueblood

    FOREIGNID: 22396
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    It is truly amazing how inhumane people have become and the fact that they would trivelize the feelings and emotions of others in this heartwrenching documentary is beyond belief. These type of people are cut from the same pice of cloth as shirly turner. Have a little heart and try to put yourself in the authors place.