The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Movie Review:
Bad Axe

May 9, 2022

A new 2022 documentary named “Bad Axe” was released in a small number of theaters recently. The movie is named after a city in Michigan, Bad Axe, a small, rural, working class and farming community. The movie chronicles the life of a family who has owned a restaurant in this town for many years.

The family is one of the few minorities in the town. The father escaped the “Killing Fields” in Cambodia in the late 1970s. The mother is Mexican American, and her father worked in the factories in Detroit. The boyfriend of one of their daughters is one of the few African Americans in the town.

The movie was produced by the son of the restaurant owner. He originally was planning on filming the life of his family but not intending anything controversial. However, the filming took place beginning in early 2020, right when Covid hit the world; so, he ended up documenting what happened in this small town and how the town and the family reacted to the pandemic.

The tensions in the town are evident throughout the movie. The movie begins with the daughter of the restaurant owners reading one of the hate letters that they had received. This is an almost all-white town in which a non-white family enforced Covid restrictions on customers skeptical about Covid. We see in the movie how Covid goes beyond being a health issue and becomes a political issue.

The tensions get worse when workers at the restaurant (including the restaurant owner’s daughter) are instrumental in organizing the protest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protest march in the town attracts not only supporters but also counter-protesters, including some armed Neo-Nazis.

Although there is backlash against the family for enforcing Covid rules and for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement (they get hate letters, threats, some people refusing to dine there anymore, arguments over the face masks, the daughter followed by armed Neo-Nazis), as it turns out, a number of people in the town do support the family.

The Cambodian-American father has a strong personality, and is well-regarded by audiences. His determination to protect his family shows bravery. His character portrayal is very patriotic, notwithstanding the role U.S. imperialism played by setting the stage for the violence inflicted in the Killing Fields following the Vietnam and Cambodian wars. However, when the Neo-Nazis in town were believed to be the ones following his daughter and making threats against them, he armed himself and his family and did not depend on the police for protection. He is a small businessman in a conflicted situation, wanting to guard his interests.

The film shows some of the political conflict that we see throughout this country, and the world. The election of Biden appears to be a relief to a family under attack by the right-wing Republicans. (The viewer might wonder what the family feels after a year of the Biden presidency.) But the film also shows that even in an area that politically is very right-wing, there are also people who are willing to show support for the family, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more.