A new Bruce Lee documentary on ESPN will premiere this Sunday.
Part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, the film will showcase the Chinese American actor and martial artist’s struggle to mainstream success.
The trailer shows Bruce Lee’s journey to fame, from being rejected by Hollywood in the 1970s to starring in iconic martial arts films that defied Asian American stereotypes at the time.
The documentary, Be Water, is told “entirely by family, friends, and collaborators who knew Bruce Lee best,” with archival footage, Movie Web reported.
The title comes from one of Lee’s famous sayings: “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless — like water…You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is directed by Bao Nguyen, a fan of Lee since stumbling upon Enter the Dragon as a child.
“I’d never seen a lead actor who looked like me,” Nguyen said in an interview with ESPN. “I couldn’t get over the fact that he was the film’s hero. He wasn’t the villain. He wasn’t a sidekick. He was a confident leading man. Growing up in America, I was not used to seeing this type of depiction of Asian males.”
During Lee’s time, things were not so easy for Asian Americans, which Nguyen is trying to incorporate into the film, juxtaposing Lee as “a household name” with the popular perception of Asian men being emasculated or evil.
“Americans kind of lumped together what all Asians looked like,” Nguyen said. “It was easy to make all Asians out to be the villain,”
In addition to paving the way for Asian American representation, Lee became an inspiration to mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters for his fluid fighting style.
Lee was born in San Francisco, but died at age 32 from cerebral edema in 1973 in Hong Kong.
The Los Angeles- and Vietnam-based Nguyen made his directorial debut in 2015 with Live From New York!, which chronicles the influence and impact of the popular late-night show, Saturday Night Live. He also has directed documentaries centered on racial issues and the Fall of Saigon.
Be Water premieres on Sunday, June 7th at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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