Bad Axe Documentary

SXSW Review: ‘Bad Axe’

March 14, 2022Ben MK

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on much of the world's population, not just on people's lives, but on their livelihoods. For some the switch to the remote working environment meant never having to change out of their pyjamas to go to the office, but for those who run their own small businesses, the situation has been significantly more dire. It's a trend that has repeated itself it countries and cities around the world. And in Bad Axe, director David Siev takes a look at his own family's struggle to keep their restaurant afloat, as they grapple with challenges brought on by the pandemic.

A refugee from Cambodia who escaped the infamous Killing Fields, Chun Siev arrived in America in search of a better life. Now, several decades later, he has settled in the small town of Bad Axe, Michigan, where he owns and operates a local restaurant, along with his wife Rachel and daughters Jaclyn, Raquel and Michelle. But once March, 2020 comes around, the family finds their place in their community becoming more uncertain. Both David, a filmmaker based in New York City, and Jaclyn, who has a corporate job in nearby Ann Arbor, have returned home to lend some support to their parents. Chun, on the other hand, seems adamant about refusing the help, despite Jaclyn's concerns about his high blood pressure. To make matters worse, they must also deal with abusive anti-maskers and blatant racial discrimination. However, it's the heated confrontations Jaclyn and her siblings get into with members of a Neo Nazi organization during a Black Lives Matter protest that pushes the family to their limits, as they begin to fear for their safety, as well as their health and financial future.

Filmed during several months over the course of the pandemic, the result may chronicle the journey of the Siev family in particular, yet it's not hard to imagine similar situations playing out elsewhere. After all, it's one thing to be told about the plight of small business owners and those who find themselves the target of racism as a result of COVID-19. What Bad Axe does exceptionally well, though, is put faces and names to the statistics.

Bad Axe screens under the Docmumentary Feature Competition presented by IMAX section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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