EXCLUSIVE: The Bruce Lee docu Be Water makes its way to ESPN’s 30 For 30 library on June 7 and it gives us a comprehensive look at his life as a martial arts icon as well as an advocate of inclusion, a husband and father.
The documentary made its debut earlier this year at Sundance to critical acclaim. Taking the title from a famous quote said by the Lee, Nguyen approached his story not as the Hollywood icon as everyone knows him to be, but as a vulnerable human being like the rest of us.
“I hope the film shows that even someone as extraordinary and seemingly invincible as Bruce Lee had to battle a lot of rejection and internal struggles just because of what he looked like and where he came from,” Nguyen told Deadline. “Even in the face of a racist system, built upon centuries of xenophobic attitudes and demeaning stereotypes, he was determined to change the old narratives and build this new myth of the Asian and Asian American as the hero.”
The film is especially poignant today’s landscape of misinformation about COVID-19, where Asians are being accosted and harassed. Nguyen said that growing up he never saw many faces that looked like him — and if he did they were docile or villainous. That said, he knows the importance of feeling represented in TV or film.
“Nowadays, when many of us are under stay at home orders and unable to see others face to face, the stories and characters we present on TV are even more significant because that’s the ideas of one another we absorb as audiences,” he said. “This has become our main interaction with the world and so with Be Water, the aim is to not emphasize the ways we are different but try to bridge communities and learn from each other much like Bruce Lee did in his life.”
Be Water is part of ESPN’s 30 For 30 slate including Marina Zenovich’s Lance Armstrong film Lance, which debuted May 24 as well as AJ Schnack’s, Long Gone Summer which chronicles Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s storied 1998 home run chase following the 1994 MLB strike.
Watch the trailer for Be Water above.
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