“Water can flow or it can crash,” so said Bruce Lee in this interview on the Pierre Berton Show.
I watched ESPN 30 for 30‘s documentary Be Water (Bao Nguyen, 2020) about Bruce Lee on ESPN tonight and was mesmerized. The archival footage, photography, and home videos in it provide a great glimpse into the life of a man who had wanted to open kung fu schools across America. While the majority of the content focuses on Bruce as an individual, it incorporates the cultural and socio-political climate of the mid-late 60s. Whether or not you’re a fan or even like watching kung fu/martial arts sequences, you won’t be able to turn away. You’d have to actively dislike the subject matter to be tempted to divert your attention.
I haven’t seen other 30 for 30 productions, so I’m not sure if it’s a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmaker or not, but I really liked the lack of talking heads. You hear the voices of the interviewees but you don’t see them speaking. Instead, the documentary stays with images and video of Bruce and the respective interviewee. For instance, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar talking about Bruce is paired with photos from when/how they first met. The ending credits consists of many of the people who knew him holding a picture of themselves with him.
I knew who Bruce Lee was when I was a kid without having seen most of his films. It wasn’t until I took a Chinese cinemas class in college that I’d seen any of his movies in full. I’d be surprised if there were Chinese kids born after the 70s and 80s who didn’t know who he was and what he accomplished as an Asian.
Pic cred: imdb (light photoshopping by yours truly)