Ethics and truth in the land of documentary come under the microscope in our discussion of Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne’s love letter to his childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, is a sensational and moving film that you should know as little as possible about before watching. It’s exceptionally effective, built out of a combination of interviews, home footage, still photos and more, masterfully edited to generate emotional affect – but despite its qualities, there are real issues fundamental to its form. It’s a hybrid of two types of film that find themselves in competition here: it’s a documentary, a form about openness and truth; and a thriller, withholding information until it reshapes everything you’ve learned so far. It’s a tension that may well be impossible to avoid – to resolve it might be to totally change Dear Zachary from the deeply personal, passionately made film it is.
The story Dear Zachary tells is powerful, moving and utterly gripping, and the conversation to which it will lead you is rich and illuminating. We recommend it without reservation, even though we have serious reservations about it.
The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.