David Siev’s Bad Axe is a devastating yet incredibly inspirational documentary depicting a family on the edge of a political and societal revolution.
When lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the world as we knew it began to change. As we closed our doors and tried to navigate our way through this new normal, many different stories of pandemic life shared similarities yet offered unique perspectives the likes of which only those who were there to tell it can truly fathom. Bad Axe tells the story of a struggling business during the pandemic but also tells the story of a political and societal revolution from a deeply human level, as a family of Asian Americans rocked a rural and conservative American town.
Bad Axe follows director David Siev, who documents his family’s struggles during COVID-19 and the racial tensions that came from the bigotry of COVID’s origins and the death of George Floyd that spawned protests from the Black Lives Matter movement. As Siev’s family struggles to keep their restaurant and their American dream alive, their own form of protest against the increasingly toxic environment they found themselves in presents new and potentially dangerous problems.
There’s something oddly quaint when looking back at the early days of the pandemic. It’s a time that many will remember well, and yet it was also a time of great confusion about just how serious of a change the world was initially going through. Bad Axe ultimately tells two separate stories that slowly merge as a mosaic of sorts for the year of 2020 that we all faced. David Siev documents the first three months of COVID-19 life and the generational divide that brings many forms of tension to his family as his parents struggle with the idea of staying away from the very thing that defined their lives in the country they live in. Those initial and perhaps naïve feelings that this pandemic may have been overblown or that it would not impact yourself and your family in the way it inevitably would are feelings that many faced during the initial shockwaves of lockdowns and safety protocols.
Despite the scary and intense times that the family find themselves in, however, Bad Axe makes sure to never lose the tender feeling it emanates right from the first frame. Although the family of David Siev experiences racism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry, the closeness and comradery of the film’s central family makes Bad Axe feel less like a piece set in a miserable time but instead, a piece that places itself into the rising tide of hope and change. As the Black Lives Matter movement and death of George Floyd rocked the nation and brought the injustices within America to light, a willingness to act and demand change against the fundamental mechanisms of the country was born. Although there’s a feeling of fear and anxiety that washes over the Siev family that stems from their desire to step forward against the loud toxic voices within the country and town, their desire to be a part of change and hope is what makes them incredibly engaging and positive people to watch.
Bad Axe is a wonderful and hopeful documentary that presents a loud voice within the cusp of a massive societal change. No matter how hard times get for the film’s central family, their resilience acts as a wonderful shining light against the toxic darkness that society holds deep within itself. Although the world may be a long way off from complete peace and equality, Bad Axe presents a world where if we have more families like the Siev family, we just might reach that goal in the end.
Bad Axe will open in theaters and VOD on November 18, 2022.