Dear Zachary: a touching film, but why?

Last week in class we watched the film Dear Zachary (You can find it on Netflix). This is a documentary style film that keeps you in suspense. The interviews came about when a filmmaker decided to record memories (as told by friends and family), of a deceased friend. In the beginning we learn about the deceased’s life and all of the people who were affected by his death. Unexpectedly, in the middle of the film, the director decides to focus on the deceased child and the events that take place surrounding his birth and later death. It’s definitely a tear jerking movie, but it is also a testimony of human strength and search for justice against all odds.

We have watched and read about many sad topics, and listened to many sad narratives in our class. Why sad? Why not focus on comedy, drama or something that doesn’t make one dig into their soul for philosophical answers in regards to humanity and the state of world?  Perhaps, this is an attempt to show the often hidden side of humanity. Why do we avoid somethings, and react to them in different ways? Covering up sad events and stories is easy to do. It is our way of protecting ourselves, and keeping ourselves comfortable.

I’m certainly not saying that one should become consumed by the sadness of this world. What I mean is that there are times when one needs a reality check and reminder about those suffering around us. This could be our peers in our class, or people across the globe. Why do we, should we watch and makes sad films? So that in our natural selfishness, we remind ourselves to think beyond ourselves.

The emotions that I felt while watching “Dear Zachary” ranged from apathy, sympathy, frustration, deep sadness to anger.  In the beginning, I was like, “Okay this is some documentary, about some guy, who has absolutely nothing to do with me..who cares..”

Then when the deceased person’s character we developed, I started to feel sorry for his friends and family. I was sad that he died with such a low self esteem and  because of a bad break up he started dating the woman who murdered him.

I was frustrated that the US had no jurisdiction to arrest the woman who murdered the main character, and was very angry with the judicial system in Canada. They basically let a dangerous and mad woman walk around freely despite overwhelming evidence.

I was sad that Zachary grandparents had to endure so much emotional drama, and distraught that Zachary is killed. Zachary had been the directors main inspiration after he was born.

The director used many techniques to draw out particular emotions from his audience. The sounds and music were dramatic. Overly dramatic at some points. He included footage of real human emotion. No character was made an absolute saint. The grandparents swore and talked about vengeful sentiments. All the interviews were very one sided- perhaps this is expected since it includes friends and family members talking about the murder of a friend. Sometimes colors were changed, and certain scenes repeated to emphasize which side the audience should take. Using had writing was also a tool the director used to create more sentiment. The director also contrasted the photographs of Zachary and his father and crucial points in the film to create more empathy.

The music and sounds used in this film definitely were the most effective in pulling an emotional response from me.

I learned that sometimes the laws that govern us work against us. As a politics major, I am concerned about jurisdiction, individual rights and evidence in cases in regards to the Canadian and American system. There is nothing worse than knowing that the law could have helped to save the lives of two amazing people.


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