This Film Will Break Your Heart

And you will be forever grateful for having witnessed such a pure expression of love and strength.

dearzLet me get this out of the way.  One, I don’t believe I have ever been as emotionally affected by any other film or movie.  Two, this is absolutely one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.  It is horribly, horribly sad, but in the midst of all that horror, you’ll find that the goodness of the people before the camera, with one giant exception, will stay with you long after you’ve repressed the wickedness of the one.

The film I’m talking about is Dear Zachary (2008).  Netflix (it can be streamed); Amazon (video on demand accessible); iTunes.

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 shifts to Zachary’s inspirational (to put it mildly) grandparents, David & Kathleen Bagby, and their desperate efforts to win custody of the boy from the woman they knew had murdered their son.

There’s more.  A lot more.  But go watch it.  Keep a towel handy.

It’s not only the story.  This is an extremely well-made film.  The editing, in particular, is excellent.

But at the end of the day, the story is about people.  The filmmaker, who is only rarely seen, narrates the same heartfelt way he filmed and edited.  The friends.  So many friends.  For sure, the grandparents.  Andrew Bagby himself, in home videos.

Here’s the trailer. . .

which gives the impression that it’s something of a “true crime” film.  But it’s not.  It’s a lot more than that.