(director: David Siev; cinematographer: David Siev; editors: Peter Wagner/Rosie Walunas; music: Stephanie Kowal; cast: Chun Siev, Jaclyn Siev, Raquel Siev, Rachel Siev, Michael Meinhold, Skyler Janssen; Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jude Harris/Diane Moy Quon/David Siev/Katarina Vasquez; IFC; 2022)
“It comes off more like a tuned-in home video rather than a polished Hollywood film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A family portrait documentary on an immigrant Asian-American family struggling to survive economically and socially in rural America by running a family restaurant. It’s handsomely helmed by David Siev, the filmmaker member of the restaurant family, in his feature film debut. The film is named after the small Michigan town where the family lives. Their story tells of how when quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, Siev and his family dealt with COVID, experienced racism and endured many troubling things in their sleepy right-wing town.
The Siev family reside in their pro-Trump close-knit town as the owners of the restaurant called Rachel’s, which was opened as a donut shop by the filmmaker’s immigrant Cambodian father Chun (survived ‘the Killing Fields’) and Rachel, his Mexican-American wife. Working there are David’s sisters, the married Jaclyn (her husband Michael Meinhold, a Michigan University grad who now also works in the restaurant) and the younger Raquel (a university senior, dating a black guy, helps out in the restaurant when free but is undecided if she wants this as her career). The successful place, now expanded into a restaurant, has a diverse menu that features Asian dishes along with popular American dishes.
Fitting in with the heavily armed community, the Siev family are packing guns for protection against the threatening members of a neo-Nazi Trump group.
In the racially tense summer of 2020, when the nation faced protests over police brutality, the incensed Jaclyn along with her siblings and community friends participated in a Black Lives Matter protest.
David resides in NYC but stays here during the pandemic because it’s safer, and he thereby films his family’s activities and captures on film how tense things became over such things as mask wearing confrontations.
It’s a compelling film, suited for today’s news cycle, making good use of the hand-held camera to get around the town. It comes off more like a tuned-in home video rather than a polished Hollywood film.
What the family has going for it is the will to stick together and a belief that democracy works. It’s a solid slice of life film.
It played at the SXSW Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 10/18/2022 GRADE: B