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'Bad Axe' film puts thumb on America's tension points

Adam Graham, The Detroit News on

Published in Entertainment News

Everything was fine. Then the pandemic happened, and everything changed.

Michigan on screen

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Siev came home, uncertain of what lay ahead for him in New York. And that's when he started filming, which his family was used to from him.

As things narratively began taking shape, Siev cut together a trailer for his film and launched a $30,000 online fundraising campaign.

That's when word got out about his movie, and the Sievs became targets. Individuals seen in the film — including armed protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally — became concerned about their and their town's portrayal in the film.

Social media threats poured in and community members threatened to boycott the restaurant, and members of Siev's family were followed by mysterious vehicles at night. Lives and livelihoods were at stake.

 

Siev's reaction was to keep filming, which leads to one of the film's most poignant moments, when Siev's mom explains to her son that he doesn't have to live in town and deal with fallout from the movie, but they do.

"For me personally, it never became a question of whether to carry on and continue making this film; I was going to do that anyway. But the question that did pose itself was, 'am I going to put this film out there,' " says Siev, who shot more than 350 hours of footage for the film. "I was never going to put the film out there for the world to see unless my family was all on board and trusted what I was doing."

That approval came and the temperature around the film, especially in Bad Axe, cooled down once it started being shown earlier this year. It's a loving, if conflicted, portrait of the town, warts and all, that is only strengthened by its unflinching nature.

After the film was picked up by IFC Films following its world premiere at March's South by Southwest festival, Siev showed it to backers and members of the community in May at the Bad Axe Theatre, the same theater where he grew up seeing movies and where the film is now showing.

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