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“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.”

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10272008_dearzachary.jpgThe common refrain when describing Kurt Kuenne’s documentary “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” is that you shouldn’t — that the shocking events that occur over the course of the film should blindside audiences as much as they blindside the filmmaker and his subjects. But you wouldn’t be watching “Dear Zachary” if it were merely the film Kuenne first set out to make: a celluloid memorial to his childhood friend Andrew Bagby, a cheery 28-year-old with a touch of the hobbit to him, an Eagle Scout, an eager on-camera participant in all of Kuenne’s teenage attempts at moviemaking, and a doctor who was finishing up his family practice internship when he was murdered in 2001, almost certainly by his ex-girlfriend.

That loss spurred Kuenne to begin creating an obituary for Andrew, a collage of home movies and interviews with friends and family that would represent “everything there is to know” about the man. “Dear Zachary” succeeds at many things, most of all at being an almost unwatchably raw representation of grief, but its original goal turns out to be insurmountable. It becomes clear that you simply can’t create a fair portrait of someone near to you who died, unfairly and untimely. The more Kuenne digs, talks to people, roadtrips across the country and flies to England to meet cousins, the more remote Andrew, who was blessedly normal, becomes. Everyone is too close to express more than mourning.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Kuenne was blessed with a series nightmarishly serendipitous events that unfolded as he was making “Dear Zachary” and that bend the film into something else entirely, into an outraged document of the failure of a system to punish or prevent crime. Shirley Turner, the unstable older woman Andrew used to date, who drove across four states to see him and shoot him multiple times after he broke off their relationship, flees to her hometown in Newfoundland, Canada while the police are gathering evidence against her. As the extradition process limps forward, Turner announces she’s pregnant with Andrew’s baby, and Kate and David, Andrew’s parents, prepare to fight for custody of their grandson once he’s born and a DNA test confirms his parentage. Astonishingly, Turner is loosed on bail twice, her newborn son left in her custody and later returned to her after a stint with his grandparents, who are placed in the surreal position of having to accompany their son’s alleged killer on playdates and to discuss over the phone whether they would want a photo of the once couple as a Christmas present.

Turner is fascinating monster, insecure, sociopathic, manipulative and outrageously brash, and Kuenne doesn’t try to be the least bit fair with her, which, given the circumstances, is appropriate. He’s not a sophisticated filmmaker, illustrating voiceover almost literally with clips, returning to other footage repeatedly, and struggling openly with structure. But that roughness works with the barely contained emotions displayed on screen, and when, in the final act, something truly terrible happens, seems the only way this story could be told, awkwardly, anguished, at much personal artifact as film created for public consumption.

[Photo: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father,” Oscilloscope, 2008]

+ “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” (Oscilloscope)

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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