Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Queerguru’s Ris Fatah reviews BAD AXE “truly excellent snapshot of America in 2020”.


Bad Axe sounds like the name of a town that would feature in an episode of The Simpsons, but this Michigan place is for real. Documentary-maker David Siev paints a fascinating real-time portrait of his Asian-American family’s experiences in Trump’s rural America. We join the family during the crazy year that was 2020, as they fight to keep their restaurant and their American dream alive in the face of the covid pandemic, Neo-Nazis and generational scars from Cambodia’s Killing Fields.

Siev returns to his hometown just as the pandemic starts. There’s not much in snowy Bad Axe (pop. 3000) other than a Wal-Mart, a couple of traffic lights, and Rachel’s, his family’s restaurant. His family has slowly built up the restaurant over the past twenty years to become the backbone of the community. His Cambodian-refugee father Chun and his Mexican-American mother Rachel run the successful restaurant with two of his siblings Jaclyn and Raquel, having built it up from a coffee and donut shop.

Restaurants had major struggles during the pandemic and we watch the family deal with the rules against in-person dining, a vastly reduced income, increasing covid deaths and panic, and a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes directed at them, often fuelled by Trump’s dumb rhetoric. The individual family members’ different risk attitudes towards covid lead to in-house conflicts. Many of their customers are Trump-supporting mask-refusniks and this also leads to drama in the restaurant. Then the younger members of the family join in the Black Lives Matter movement and attend local protests to support the cause, which adds fuel to the fire. 

All this is documented by Siev and when he releases a trailer of the movie to try and crowdfund it, the family receives a huge amount of backlash from the local residents who perceive his intended love letter to Bad Axe as a slight on their community. This includes harassment and threatening behavior from local neo-nazis. We watch the family as they unite and stand strong in the face of all the turmoil. Chun was a child during Pol Pot’s murderous regime in Cambodia – the horrific ‘Killing Fields’ period – and can connect to the consequences of uncontrolled hate – a stark warning to what could have happened in America if Trump had stayed in power.

Although there are many negative themes to Siev’s story, the overriding message is that of a family’s love, strength, and resilience seeing them through times of adversity. This is a very positive, hopeful message for everyone, no matter who your chosen family is. A truly excellent snapshot of America in 2020.


PS Queerguru reviewed this multi-award winning film at DOC NYC and  now IFC Films will be releasing it in select US movie theatres on Nov 18th


Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant  (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah

Posted by queerguru  at  12:21


Genres:  documentary

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