Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Zachary

Dear Zachary is exactly the kind of documentary I want to make. And I feel compelled to watch everything by filmmaker Kurt Kuenne. Its a deeply personal account of human tragedy. More than a record of events, it's an experience. Events unravel before you as they happen and the filmmaker puts you into the moment to experience the pain along with the subject as its happening.

I love the texture of the film. It feels like a home movie because it was intended to be a home movie about the filmmaker's close friend. Beginning with the death of his friend, the film develops as the friends and family of the deceased learn more about the situation. The plot thickens with ex-lovers, murder and a pregnancy. That's where Zachary comes in. He's the dead guy's son. You have to see it.

Not everybody appreciates the editing. Kuanne is not afraid to squeeze a passing clip in the background only to bring it back later in its full context with new meaning. A simple sigh or a foreboding comment can mean different things at different points int he story.

Kuanne's film captures grief as it belongs in time and space. It forces you to reflect back on those unintentional premonitions and moments of foreboding but its also an experience in itself which can be so painful as to be surreal, torn between letting go of the past and accepting the present.

You remember all those promises and dreams that will never come to fruition because an important piece of the puzzle has been lost. In situations of great loss, it borders on a psychedelic experience. Not so much hallucinating a thing that isn't there but in refusing to accept the thing that is not.

The impact of the tragedy comes from narrator's habit to obliquely lead into the bad news. It starts with an expression of hope in the past tense before it slams you with the tragedy. For example, I always thought we'd go skiing together but then you moved away. Or I baked you a cake! But then you couldn't make it to dinner.

Death is a human tragedy. Death as an interrupter of dreams is a personal tragedy. And it leaves you wanting to go back in time to prevent it.

Fantastic film. You can see it on Netflix.