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The Michigan documentary 'Bad Axe' will have its world premiere at SXSW

The documentary follows an Asian-American family as they fight to keep their restaurant alive in the face of a pandemic.
Credit: Courtesy of Baker’s Dozen Films
Bad Axe Film by David Siev

BAD AXE, Mich. — A documentary from Bad Axe, Michigan is making its world debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March.

Bad Axe native and Asian-American film maker, David Siev, created the documentary during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The film is called "Bad Axe" and it follows Siev's family’s struggles during the pandemic and civil unrest of 2020.

Siev had been living in New York City and moved back to the rural town of Bad Axe to be with his family at the onset of the pandemic. 

His family owns and operates a successful restaurant in the town but as the pandemic grew in scope, the family struggled to keep their restaurant open.

Siev’s father, Chun Siev, is a refugee from Cambodia who didn't speak a single word of English when he arrived. After arriving in America, he met his wife Rachel and opened a donut shop in Bad Axe, Michigan.

Eventually, they found it difficult to make a living off of just donuts in a town with just over 4,000 residents. So, they turned their donut shop into a restaurant which they named 'Rachel's Food & Spirits.'

Credit: Courtesy of Baker’s Dozen Films
An exterior shot of Rachel's Food & Spirits in Bad Axe.

The restaurant did much better than the donut shop, but it still had its ups and downs. Siev and his sister can both recall being worried about their parents making ends meet while they were growing up. Eventually the restaurant starting doing better and those fears subsided.

Then, on March 16, 2020, everything changed. The coronavirus pandemic had made its way to Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an order to shut down all bars and restaurants for dine-in service.

Credit: Courtesy of Baker’s Dozen Films
Chun Siev praying in his Bad Axe home.

At first, Siev's film seems to follow his family as they work through the pandemic and fight to keep their restaurant open. But, it soon becomes apparent that another huge roadblock for their restaurant's continued success is on the horizon.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin rocked the nation and empowered the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Chun's daughter, Jaclyn Siev, joined the small minority community in Bad Axe and protested in the town of predominantly white conservatives.

Those actions drove a rift between father and daughter because her support of the Black Lives Matter Movement could have serious repercussions on the restaurant's business.

As the family struggled with keeping their restaurant open and deal with rising racial tensions within the community, David Siev captures all of the raw emotion in his film Bad Axe.

The film is being shown on March 14, 15 and 18 at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

The film is also available to stream online with a virtual ticket on on March 15 at 9 a.m.

Watch a sneak peek of the movie below:

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