Genre : Documentary, Crime
Starring : Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby, Kathleen Bagby, Shirley Turner, Zachary Andrew Turner
Running Time : 93 minutes
Director : Kurt Kuenne
Producer : Scott Hooker, Michael Rubin, Elise Warner, Kurt Kuenne
Kurt Kuenne’s close friend Andrew Bagby was murdered by Shirley Jane Turner after Bagby ended their tumultuous relationship. Shortly after she was arrested, she announced she was pregnant with Bagby’s child, a boy she named Zachary. Kuenne decided to interview numerous relatives, friends, and associates of Andrew Bagby and incorporate their loving remembrances into a film that would serve as a cinematic scrapbook for the son who never knew him. As events unfold, the film becomes a sort of true-crime documentary.
I can’t say much about this film because it is best to see it without much knowledge of what it is about. What I will say is that you MUST see this movie! This is the best documentary I have ever seen and I watch a lot of documentaries. It is so full of twists and turns that you almost think it couldn’t be true. You will cry at least once but it is well worth the heartbreak. 93 out of 94 critics on Rotten Tomatoes liked the film with some saying that it changed their lives. Multiple critics were outraged that it was snubbed by the Oscars. The story is so powerful that people who viewed it lobbied to get laws changed in Canada and won. The intimacy the director had with the subject and the lengths he went to in order to document the life of Andrew is beautiful. I am not sure there is any better way he could have honored the life of his best friend. Andrew will live on forever not only for the laws changed in his name and the scholarship funds created to honor him but mostly because of the powerful nature of this film. Please do not miss this film.
Favorite Scene : I don’t know how to pick just one. The whole movie is a “favorite” scene.
Favorite Quote : “…we thought we would go and get andrew and bring him back to california and get everything organized, whatever, and then kill ourselves, because, no point going on.”
Awards : Top 5 Documentaries in 2008-National Board of Review, Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Documentary-Society of Professional Journalists, Special Jury and Audience Awards-Cinequest Film Festival, Audience Favorite-Hot Docs, Audience Award-St. Louis International Film Festival, Audience Award-Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Best Documentary-Orlando Film Festival
Fun Facts :
- Andrew and Shirley met each other as medical students at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Andrew was one of the small number of Americans admitted annually to the Faculty of Medicine.
- Turner was a double-divorcee who, apparently unbeknownst to Bagby, had threatened to commit suicide on her previous boyfriend’s doorstep when he broke up with her.
- Andrew was 28 and Shirley was 41 when Andrew died.
- Kate Bagby, who is Episcopalian, received a lot of support from both St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Saratoga, CA and St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
- Shirley Turner was originally from Wichita, Kansas, but she held dual US and Canadian citizenship.
- On 31 March 2006, a disciplinary board convened by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador found Shirley Turner’s psychiatrist, Dr. John Doucet, guilty of professional misconduct for his involvement in helping post her original CAD$75,000 bail in 2001. Doucet was ordered to pay a fine of CAD$10,000 — covering one third of the CAD$30,000 incurred by the College for the enquiry — and was ordered to undergo psychiatric counseling.
- At the time of her bail release, Shirley had attempted suicide and was under the care of at least four psychiatrists.
- When Newfoundland Justice Gale Welsh released Shirley and granted her custody of young Zachary there were 8 restraining orders against her from various people including a few ex-boyfriends.
- Dear Zachary was the first film on cable news network MSNBC’s new doc division dubbed MSNBC Films.
- The film premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and was shown at Cinequest Film Festival, South by Southwest, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Sarasota Film Festival, the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, the Calgary International Film Festival, and the Edmonton International Film Festival, among others including festivals in the US, Canada, and Greece, before going into limited theatrical release in the US, opening in one city at a time in select metropolitan areas. It was broadcast by MSNBC on December 7, 2008 and has been repeated several times since.
- David Bagby, Andrew’s father, wrote a book about his experience called Dance with the Devil: A Memoir of Murder and Loss.
- Kurt Kuenne, the director, is an awarding-winning filmmaker and composer of fiction and documentary films.
- PBS named this movie the 74th on the list of the 100 greatest documentaries of all time.
- The website Film School Rejects place the film in third place in their 30 Best Films of the Decade list.
- The Film Vault included the film on their top 5 good movies you never want to see again.
- Kurt Kuenne composed the music for this film. “The main theme is made up of two-note phrases, meant to echo the two syllables of his name.”
- The Dr. Andrew Bagby Scholarship in Family Medicine will be offered to first- and second-year medical students from the US and Canada with an interest in pursuing a career as a family physician and in training at Latrobe Area Hospital, Pennsylvania. The recipient will spend four weeks in Latrobe, associated with the family practice residency program.
- Kurt Kuenne, the director, shipped 415 copies of the film to each senator and member of Parliament of Canada hoping that “it would inspire change that would make the world a little bit safer.”
- **SPOILER ALERT** – At a time when Parliamentary co-operation was in short supply, 36 year old rookie MP Scott Andrews proposed bill, the Bagby Bill, recieved unanimous support on it’s third reading in the House of Commons. From 2001 to 2010, only 21 of the 2,400 private member bills introduced in the House of Commons had gotten royal assent.
- **SPOILER ALERT** – Proceeds from this film will be split between Andrew’s two key memorial funds: the Dr. Andrew Bagby Scholarship in Family Medicine and the Dr. Andrew Bagby and son Zachary Bursary at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Both funds are intended to support and encourage physicians who are pursuing Andrew’s calling of family medicine.
- **SPOILER ALERT-DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM** – Zachary’s Bill, Bill C-464, signed into law by Governor-General David Johnston on December 16, 2010, amending Canada’s bail code with a clause giving courts the power to refuse bail to someone charged with a serious crime who is a potential danger to children under the age of 18, an amendment which likely could have saved Zachary had it been in place in 2003.
- **SPOILER ALERT** – Shirley spiked Zachary’s baby formula with Ativan and ingested it herself before jumping off a fishing wharf into the Atlantic Ocean. It was determined that Zachary Turner was rendered unconscious by the Ativan and did not suffer.
- **SPOILER ALERT** – Here is the report by Child Advocate Investigator Peter H. Markesteyn