Director: David Siev
David Siev set out to make a documentary about his hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, but what he wound up chronicling was how the covid pandemic affected his family’s small business. The pandemic saw Siev move back home to his small town from New York, where he and his mixed Asian-Mexican-American family had followed their dreams by opening up a family restaurant. For Siev’s father, a refugee from Cambodia’s killing fields, this was the promise of the United States—and allowed him and his wife to raise their children in a place far from fear.
Or so they hoped. As the pandemic worsened, the Siev family became the victims of anti-Asian trolling, both online and in person. One of Siev’s siblings joins a Black Lives Matter protest, and confronts a masked and armed “vigilante” and his white supremacist ideology. The situation, for herself as well as her family, could have quickly spun out of hand. (The Sievs’ father, who owns many guns, is shown training his adult children on proper firearms safety, with one of his children even vowing to sleep with an assault rifle under her bed should an online troll threaten her at home.)
The family presses on, both during shutdown and beyond, with certain patrons vowing never to return given the siblings’ press for social justice. However, many do return, of all political stripes, and the family shares in interviews that they treat all customers the same, no matter their beliefs.
This is an American success story of one family in a community of just 3,000, where the Sievs are one of, if not the only, non-White families. David Siev has made a love letter both to his family as well as his Michigan hometown, and one to be celebrated.
Now available to stream; go to https://www.badaxedoc.com/watch-at-home/.
“IMAGINING THE INDIAN”
Directors: Aviva Kempner and Ben West
This fascinating documentary is meant as a rejoinder to the crowd who would claim that Native American mascots are symbols not of hate but of celebration. Aviva Kempner and Ben West interview activists who believe otherwise, and claim that even such “respectful” mascots as the University of Illinois’s Chief Illini is, in fact, nonetheless racist. While progress has indeed been made—the Washington Commanders and Cleveland Guardians among them—unsurprisingly, there are many fans who are anything but anxious to have their thinking challenged. Several get in the face of protestors on camera, particularly in Kansas City, whose NFL team remains known as the Chiefs.
Fascinating and challenging, “Imagining the Indian” captures a unique part of our cultural moment.
In select theaters
“KUBRICK BY KUBRICK”
Director: Gregory Monro
Stanley Kubrick was notoriously press-averse, preferring to keep his own counsel and never explaining his artistic decisions. However, French film critic Michel Ciment was granted unprecedented access for sit-down interviews with the filmmaker following his leaving New York for England, where he would spend the remainder of his life. Director Gregory Monro weaves the audio of those chats with some rather artful recreations of the sets of Kubrick’s films—but that perhaps only serves to undermine Kubrick’s absence. Likewise, Monro does not provide any new interviews and relies essentially exclusively on the archives.
So while there may be nothing “new” here, for true cineastes and Kubrick die-hards, there’s enough to maintain their interest—especially in the filmmaker’s final days, when he spent nearly two years making “Eyes Wide Shut,” and died mere days after delivering it to the studio. (Tom Cruise, in an archival interview, relates that he and then-wife Nicole Kidman spent so much time living in London for that notoriously long shot that their children even developed English accents.)
Kubrick made relatively few films in his career, but his impact upon the medium of film remains unmistakable.
Available for streaming