Kurt Kuenne’s heartrending, spellbinding 2008 documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father is several things simultaneously: a bizarre true-crime story; a remembrance for a murdered friend; and, ultimately, an appeal to the Canadian government to change its criminal code in order to prevent future tragedies. Hinging on issues that are truly life-and-death, Zachary is a movie that positively demands a follow-up. And now, fittingly, it has received that follow-up with a 14-minute sequel entitled The Legacy Of Dear Zachary: A Journey To Change Law. As revealed in this update, Kuenne’s documentary can now count itself among the very rare movies that have actually impacted public policy.
Kuenne’s original film centers around the 2001 murder of his friend, Andrew Bagby, at the hands of a possessive ex-girlfriend named Shirley Jane Turner. When Turner was accused of Bagby’s death, she fled to Canada and was arrested. Due to that country’s broad interpretation of presumption of innocence, Turner was released on bail and killed both herself and the young son she’d had with Bagby. Distraught, Kuenne had considered scrapping his movie about the case but was inspired to carry on with it so that the story could be told to the public. As such, Legacy begins with Kuenne’s struggle to get his documentary seen and distributed. Originally rejected by Sundance, Dear Zachary eventually scored a berth at the Slamdance Film Festival and a distribution deal with MSNBC. More importantly, Kuenne managed to get the attention of Canadian lawmakers. The combination of the film and some impassioned testimony from Bagby’s parents convinced the Canadian government that a change in the law was necessary. In the end, Kuenne is awed by the impact Dear Zachary has had, both on the survivors and on people who have seen it.