Directed By: David Siev
Starring: Michael Meinhold, Skyler Janssen, Chun Siev
Plot Summary: A real-time portrait of 2020 unfolds as an Asian-American family in Trump’s rural America fights to keep their restaurant and American dream alive in the face of a pandemic, Neo-Nazis, and generational scars from the Killing Fields.
It’s been nearly three years since the start of a global pandemic that changed the entire world. While it’s still not over, things are not quite as scary due to better vaccines and treatments. Enough time has passed to take a step back and hear stories during this time from a diverse perspective. Director David Siev decided to document his family’s experience during the chaotic year of 2020. The end result is a raw, emotional, and stunning film. It will shake you to your core and leave you changed for the better.
Siev is completely raw and bold with this film. Not only does he do a great job at capturing the reactions to the pandemic as it unfolds, but also the tension, fear, and disturbing political climate that occurs within the microcosm of the town of Bad Axe. The film is of two minds. It’s an intimate look at a small business owning family that has to deal with the challenges of the world shutting down, but mix in the fact that the family just happens to be liberal Asian Americans in a rural and deeply conservative town and things get intense. Unnerving footage of the family clashing with locals not respecting mask policies and losing customers for the Siev family’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement is all fearlessly documented.
Seeing Neo-Nazis armed with automatic assault weapons against peaceful protestors is really powerful and haunting footage. It goes without saying that it took a level of bravery to not only stand up against people like that but also steadfastly film it. Things get really unsettling when certain family members receive death threats. It would be easy to tuck-and-run, but they don’t back down. That is staggering and should be commended.
The filmmakers also highlight the small moments that add the beating heart and core to this film, which is the family. David Siev explores the deep bonds within a family unit, warts and all. Nobody is perfect, and the family has some in-fighting as worries for their business and safety mount. However, at the end of the day everybody rallies around each other which is such a beautiful thing to see. When David’s father talks about his experience in the Killing Fields and coming to this country, it is heartbreaking and further highlights what it means to live in a free country like America.
While this movie tackles a lot of dark, heavy but vital subject matter, it’s not without its silver lining. Thankfully, through all of the hardship, fear, and racism, the Siev family rises from the ashes even stronger. The main takeaway is that even in the darkest of times, its family that will see you through it. Bad Axe is frank, powerful, and perfectly captures its timely themes and message. It does everything a good film of this genre should do and is engaging, deeply moving, and inspiring. At times, it is a hard watch, but one that is very much worth it in the end. Bad Axe is a fantastic film that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of press, but one you should keep at eye out for.
Bad Axe is currently playing in select theaters, and it is currently available On Demand courtesy of IFC Films.
Bad Axe is frank, powerful, and perfectly captures its timely themes and message.
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.