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Original poster artwork by
Evan B. Harris
The Legacy of Dear Zachary:
A Journey to Change Law
Watch this short film to see the quest to complete Dear Zachary and amend Canadian bail law. (SPOILER WARNING: Do not watch this short until you have seen Dear Zachary.)
December 16, 2010:
ZACHARY'S BILL (BILL C-464) BECOMES LAW IN CANADA
(Click HERE to read a letter to viewers from David & Kate Bagby.)
On December 15, 2010, Governor General David Johnston gave Royal Assent to Bill C-464: An Act To Amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody), making it law in Canada. The private member's bill was introduced by MP Scott Andrews of Newfoundland last fall after he saw "Dear Zachary" at a March 2009 screening in Ottawa and decided to do something about what he saw. The bill has added an amendment to Canada's criminal code giving courts the right to refuse bail to someone charged with a serious crime who is deemed a potential danger to children under the age of 18.
Bill C-464 was introduced in the House of Commons on October 22, 2009, passed the House of Commons unanimously on March 22nd of this year and passed the Senate of Canada last Thursday, December 9th, where it was sponsored by Senator Tommy Banks of Alberta. This marks the first time in history an MP from Newfoundland has been able to get a private member's bill through Parliament; since 2001, 2,510 Private Member's Bills have been introduced in the House of Commons, but only 23 - less than 1% - have received Royal Assent.
I extend my deepest thanks and greatest respect to MP Scott Andrews, his associate Ken Carter, Senator Tommy Banks, his executive assistant Thérèse Gauthier, MP Peter Stoffer, Senator Anne Cools, Gord McIntosh and everyone in Parliament who saw across party lines to support this bill's passage into law. Amending Canada's bail code was my goal in releasing "Dear Zachary" publicly; it is my pleasure to announce that goal is now a reality.
- Kurt Kuenne
What the press are saying:
- "...The talk of Slamdance... Dear Zachary is, above all, a virtuoso feat in editing, and Kuenne uses the material at his disposal to devastating effect... it's impossible not to feel emotionally exhausted." - Peter Debruge, Variety
- "Stamping it bluntly, Dear Zachary is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen and I am not prone to such hyperbolic statements. Kurt Kuenne has remarkably turned this into a furious lightning bolt of reminiscence and outrage that is going to reach into each viewer's chest and squeeze their heart like a tomato in a vice. Dear Zachary unfolds like a masterful thriller that never loses respect for the wake its tragedies have left. And still, by the end when we're exhausted and ready to collapse under the weight of our tears and anger, Kuenne has created an absolute love letter to the art of parenting...it's the best documentary of its kind probably since Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line. This is Oscar-worthy material and hopefully enough people on the committees will see it and cast a vote for next year." - Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
- "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father has been a cause célèbre on the festival circuit, sending audiences through the emotional wringer while reducing several critics to tears. Rarely have I been reduced to a raw nerve by a film. There isn’t one false emotion in Dear Zachary, no moment of doubt. Equal parts horror and epiphany, it is a masterpiece that draws its power from the best and worst within us." - Ray Young, Flickhead.net
- "Dear Zachary is by far one of the greatest films I've seen in the last few years. The movie is phenomenal. It's not just a movie, but a gift from one friend to another. The amount of honest love in this movie is overwhelming...that's a rare experience to be sitting in a dark theater and truly witness something beautiful...you will walk out of this film completely different from how you walked in... By the end of the movie you will be wanting to write letters to Canada's government or taking action of some kind. Dear Zachary is a powerful film that will inspire you in so many different ways." - Muldoon, Ain't It Cool News
- "**** (Four Stars)...heart-wrenching, thought-provoking and infuriating...thanks to flaws in the Canadian judicial system... It's said there's nothing worse than the death of your child, and this film drives that point home harder and with the utmost care and precision." - Barrett Hooper, NOW Toronto
- "When this haunting, shattering film made its premiere at Park City's Slamdance Film Festival, it received the most sustained ovation of any film I saw this year in Park City. People in the audience were literally weeping during the post-screening Q&A." - Pam Grady, FilmStew.com
- "Go into this cold and be prepared for a life-changing experience. Every last person who steps foot into a theater to see this will walk away changed. This film wasn't made to win awards, or, for that matter, even be criticized. It was made to tell a story and to capture forever the life of one man and the many people he touched. I praise Kurt Kuenne for having the heart and determination to perfectly put together one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever watched. If you are a film festival programmer: play this; if you are a distributor: buy this; if you are a movie-goer like me: see this." - Alex Billington, First Showing.net
- "This is the purest, most intensely raw film I have ever seen of any kind, dramatic or nonfiction. I cannot stress this enough: this movie frightened and disturbed me more than any horror film I've ever seen in my life. There were moments when something happened that had my heart beating so fast I became lightheaded and had to refocus myself. I found myself wishing that I'd done certain things to live my life differently, that I could make more of an impact on the people around me... If nothing else is accomplished with this film, it will absolutely attach you to the too-short life that was Andrew Bagby's, and you're going to be sad that you didn't get a chance to know him -- but glad all the same that you know ABOUT him now." - Mr. Winston, Ain't It Cool News
- "You don't just view what's happening on the screen -- you live it through every gasp and every tear, and every bit of exasperated anger...(resulting) in one powerful standing ovation, the likes of which I have never seen at Hot Docs before...Dear Zachary will move you. It will make you question your faith in the world. But it will also introduce you to some of the most inspiring, strong and caring people ever to grace the big screen."" - Monika Bartyzel, Cinematical.com
- "To give you an idea how powerful it is, I'll just say that there was a lot of audible sobbing during the credits....and the first question in the Q&A started like this: "First of all, holy crap. Wow." Then the questioner got choked up....the best thing I've seen in Austin (at SXSW)." - Hank Sartin, Time Out Chicago
- "Kurt Kuenne has crafted a documentary that began as a legacy of a friend in the form of a letter to that friend's child, and that is powerful enough to endure as legend. It left me looking for the impossibility of marking the film above the highest grade available on the festival's voting ballot. Dear Zachary is the sort of documentary that, in delivering its debilitating news, ensures that every person in the theater leaves their seat with the strongest reminder to continue to cherish those they love, and to reminisce without mercy for those they've loved and lost. You simply must see this film." - Elliot V. Kotek, Moving Pictures Magazine
- "One of the best documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life... a film that will rock you to your core. You will cry. You will hurt – and this film will sit with you for days, weeks, months. But you will come away believing in people. Believing that even where there is evil, there is also a tremendous amount of good." - Erik Davis, Cinematical.com
- "A 10 out of 10. I promise within the first five minutes you will be captured by it and you won't be able to tear yourself away. You will laugh, you will smile, you will cry, and you might even want to stand up and shout at the screen. Kuenne is able to capture the true nature of love and dedication in a way I have never seen. This is without a doubt one of the most profound, touching and moving films I have ever watched." - Ken Evans, firstshowing.net
- "Five years and 300-plus hours of footage in the making, Kuenne masterfully crafted a complex story about love, loss and the legal system. Dear Zachary is a testament to friendship and a tribute to those who live in the face of unspeakable heartbreak -- and try to affect change so others will not suffer the same fate." - Susan Tavernetti, Fest21.com
- "It's Kate and David Bagby who are the moral center of this film. By refusing to become the thing they hate, they provide a profound lesson on the power of love and the courage to survive the unthinkable." - Belinda Acosta, The Austin Chronicle
- "**** (Four stars). The film is by the phenomenal writer, director and composer Kurt Kuenne. Bring lots of kleenex and prepare to be equally angry and emotionally drained as you watch real, so-called justice in action. This film will be one of the best you're likely to see this year." - Steve Rhodes, Internet Reviews.com
- "Demonstrates independent film at its finest." - Peter Baxter, co-founder, Slamdance Film Festival
- "Before all else, there's Dear Zachary, documentarian Kurt Kuenne's shockingly intimate account of his road trip a few years ago, after his childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, was shot under mysterious circumstances in 2001. Excuse the hyperbole, but Dear Zachary is one of the most alarmingly forceful documentaries in years." - Eric Kohn, IndieWire.com
- "This documentary will rip out your heart and leave you in the snow without a sweater. But afterwards, all wounded and broken down, you will see the power of the human spirit even in the face of the darkest of souls." - Sarah Diamond, director of programming, Slamdance Film Festival
- "...urgent, furious...admirably well edited...this incredible, well-researched documentary demonstrates the vast gulf one life can leave behind." - Richard von Busack, Metro Newspapers
- "Some of the week's biggest flicks aren't at Sundance...filmmakers have praised Slamdance film Dear Zachary one of the week's best." - Tracie Falls, ParkRecord.com
To read more reviews, visit our Press Archive
March 23, 2010:
HOUSE OF COMMONS UNANIMOUSLY PASSES BILL C-464
On Monday, March 22, 2010, the House of Commons in Ottawa unanimously passed Bill C-464 - An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody). The private member's bill was introduced by MP Scott Andrews of Newfoundland last fall after he saw "Dear Zachary" at a March 2009 screening in Ottawa and decided to do something about what he saw. The bill now moves to the Senate where it is expected to be embraced in a similar fashion. Senator Tommy Banks of Alberta will be the bill's sponsor in the Senate, and will shortly be distributing DVDs of "Dear Zachary" to all members of the Senate, just as he and MP Andrews distributed the film to all members of the House of Commons last fall when he introduced the bill. The bill, if passed into law later this year, would justify detention in custody for those accused of a serious crime who are a potential danger to their own children under the age of 18.
Kate and David Bagby traveled to Ottawa last week to speak as witnesses for the bill before the House's Standing Committee on Justice & Human Rights. The committee passed the bill unanimously, which is how it came to be heard in the House for a final vote this week.
Please check back for updates as the bill makes its way through the Senate in the coming weeks -- and if you are a Canadian Citizen, please write your Senator to voice your support of C-464 during this crucial time. Click HERE for assistance.
We send a huge thanks to MP Scott Andrews, his assistant Ken Carter, MP Peter Stoffer, Senator Tommy Banks, his assistant Thérèse Gauthier, Gord McIntosh and all those in Parliament who have seen across party lines and supported this bill to honor Andrew & Zachary and help prevent a recurrence of our story.
December 15, 2009:
On December 4, 2009, Bill C-464 (our bail reform bill) was discussed on the floor of the House of Commons for a full hour, and MP Scott Andrews received unanimous support from all political parties in the House of Commons to advance the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice & Human Rights. Kate & David Bagby will now be called as witnesses before the committee, the bill will be revised and strengthened, and eventually brought back into the House and Senate for a vote. This is a huge step forward in the mission Dear Zachary was created to accomplish. MP Andrews was inspired to create Bill C-464 after seeing Dear Zachary for the first time in March; he and Senator Tommy Banks distributed DVDs of Dear Zachary to every member of the House of Commons for their review immediately following the December 4th discussion. Bill C-464 when enacted will justify detention in custody for a person accused of a serious crime who is a potential danger to their own minor children. We urge you to write your MP (if you're Canadian) or the Attorney General of Canada (if you're not) in support of MP Andrews' bill; the next few months are a crucial time. Information on who and where to write can be found on the "Support Bail Reform" page.
October 22, 2009:
An abridged version of "Dear Zachary" will premiere on CBC Newsworld in Canada on Sunday, October 25th at 10 PM ET/PT. Check your local listings for channel info. This abridged version was prepared personally by Kurt Kuenne in order to comply with CBC Newsworld's time constraints but preserve the film's impact while reaching a wider audience in Canada. Kurt is incredibly grateful for the good folks at MSNBC for making this arrangement happen.
Also, today MP Scott Andrews of Newfoundland introduced a bill in Parliament for its first reading that proposes a modification to Canada's bail code that would justify detention in custody for a suspect who is a potential danger to their own minor children. The bill is called C-464 - An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody). MP Andrews was spurred on to the creation of this bill after seeing "Dear Zachary" at a March screening in Ottawa to which all Members of Parliament were invited. We're thrilled with MP Andrews' initiative and efforts, and support him 100% as he moves this bill forward. We urge everyone to write your MP (if Canadian) or the Attorney General of Canada (if not) urging them to support MP Andrews and his bill as it moves toward a vote in the near future. Information on who and where to write can be found by going to the "Support Bail Reform" page.
April 14, 2009:
Dear Zachary recently won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Documentary of 2008 from the Society of Professional Journalists. It also took 3rd place in the National Headliner Awards for Best Documentary of 2008, given by the Press Club of Atlantic City. Also, by popular demand, a new printing of David Bagby's book "Dance with the Devil: A Memoir of Murder and Loss" featuring Dear Zachary's poster art on its cover is now in stores. Lastly, Dear Zachary was screened in Ottawa on March 11, 2009 for various members of Parliament and their staff; as a result, a small but committed group of Parliamentarians are now drafting a bill based on the issues raised in the film. We'll keep this website updated as to their progress when there is news.
February 24, 2009:
Dear Zachary is now available on DVD! In January, the film was nominated for Best Documentary by both the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society, who also nominated writer/director/composer Kurt Kuenne for Breakthrough Filmmaker of 2008. The International Film Music Critics also nominated his musical score for Best Documentary Score of 2008.
December 4, 2008:
Dear Zachary was named one of the top 5 documentaries of 2008 by the National Board of Review! It also recently won Best Documentary at the Orlando Film Festival and the Audience Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
September 28, 2008:
Dear Zachary recently won the Audience Award at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama! It also recently screened at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Edmonton International Film Festival to standing ovations from Canadian audiences, where it inspired many audience members to write their Parliament in support of bail reform.
Dear Zachary has been acquired for theatrical release and DVD distribution by the newly formed Oscilloscope Pictures, and will be released in New York on October 31st, and in Los Angeles and Chicago on November 7th. See details above!
August 5, 2008:
Screening next at DocuWeek, the International Documentary Association's Theatrical Documentary Showcase.
In New York - August 8-14 at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue at W. 3rd Street. Click HERE for ticket information.
In Los Angeles - August 22-28 at the Arclight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd. Click HERE for ticket information.
June 25, 2008:
Dear Zachary has been announced as the first film to launch the newly formed MSNBC Films division of MSNBC. It will have its television premiere on MSNBC this fall following a theatrical release that is currently in negotiations and expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Dear Zachary was also a hit at Silverdocs, the AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Film Festival over the weekend of June 21st & 22nd, where both screenings were once again met with standing ovations; Silverdocs nominated Dear Zachary for its inaugural Writers Guild of America Documentary Screenplay Award.
May 16, 2008:
Dear Zachary had its Canadian premiere at the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, where it was welcomed by a line down the street and around the block to get in. Both screenings received sustained standing ovations, and the Toronto audience applauded yet again when director Kurt Kuenne announced that he had sent letters to every member of Parliament requesting the opportunity to screen the film for them. Dear Zachary was then voted the #3 audience favorite of the festival by viewer ballot, out of the 172 distinguished documentaries screening at Hot Docs.
March 18, 2008:
Dear Zachary was the most honored film at Cinequest 18 in San Jose, receiving sustained standing ovations from packed houses at all 3 screenings and winning 2 awards - a Special Jury Award for Documentary Feature and the Audience Award. It then played SXSW in Austin, Texas, where it left audiences stunned and in tears.
January 28, 2008:
Dear Zachary was a hit at Slamdance! Both screenings were sold out and received sustained standing ovations, an exceptionally rare event in the 14 year history of Slamdance.
January 15, 2008:
Slamdance Film Festival book signing! David Bagby will be signing copies of Dance with the Devil on Sunday, January 20th, from 3-4 P.M. at Dolly's Bookstore, 510 Main Street, Park City, Utah.