'Bad Axe' Documentary Feature Image

After leaving NYC for his rural hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, at the start of the pandemic, Asian American filmmaker David Siev documents his family's struggles to keep their restaurant afloat. 

Nobody wants to relive the year 2020. First, emotions were raw over the toll of a pandemic that killed thousands and thousands of people across the country and cost millions of jobs. Then, more tragedy followed that put America’s deep racial inequalities in stark relief. There were no words to describe the experience, but Asian American filmmaker David Siev’s incredibly moving documentary Bad Axe articulates it beautifully. 

In other words, reliving the happenings of 2020 is a must through the eyes of Siev. Through real-time documentation and old family videos, the IFC Films release chronicles Siev’s family’s struggles to keep their restaurant afloat in the rural town of Bad Axe, Michigan. They reckon with a global pandemic, racial tensions, and generational scars. And what follows is an intimate portrait of 2020 America through the lens of a multicultural family’s battle to stay in business, involved with the community, and alive.

'Bad Axe' Still 1

Rachel's, in Bad Axe, Michigan, has been family owned and operated since 1998.

'Bad Axe' Still 2

David Siev: "My father's PTSD resurfaced due to the anxieties in dealing with the uncertainties of a global pandemic. For him, it brought back the hauntings of the collapsing Cambodia in 1975. Being home again, [my sister] Jaclyn and I had to reckon with the suppressed resentment we had for our hometown since the 2016 election. We were quickly made aware that speaking up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement meant putting our family's business at stake. As children, we were raised to stand up for what we believe in, but suddenly living in Bad Axe, we were reminded that no matter how much we thought we fit in, many of those around us were eager to turn their backs on us if we made it known that our viewpoints differed from them."

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Instagram at @bluraydad.

Recommended for you