Be Water trailer

In the wake of the fantastic Michael Jordan-centric documentary series The Last Dance, which broke viewership records for ESPN, the sports network is hoping that its slate of 30 for 30 documentaries is able to keep audiences’ attention. They’re currently airing Lance, a multi-part look at the life and controversy of cyclist Lance Armstrong, but coming up next month, they’ll tackle a subject that seems likely to attract the attention of folks outside of sports fandom: martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Check out the trailer for Be Water below.

Be Water Trailer

Be Water premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was slated to play at South By Southwest, but the Austin fest was cancelled due to the pandemic. It’s directed by Bao Nguyen, a director who has previously explored Hollywood, celebrity, tragedy, and Asian cultures in his documentary and short film work, and this story seems like the perfect distillation of all of those ideas in one place.

Here’s the film’s official synopsis:

In 1971, after being rejected by Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to his parents’ homeland, Hong Kong. Over the next two years, he’d complete four iconic films that would define his legacy, a legacy cut short when he died, stunningly, in the summer of 1973. He was 32 years old.

“Be Water” is a gripping, fascinating, intimate look at not just those final, defining years of Lee’s life, but the complex, often difficult, and seismic journey that led to Lee’s ultimate emergence as a singular icon in the histories of film, martial arts, and even the connection between the eastern and western worlds.

The film chronicles Lee’s earliest days, as the son of a Chinese opera star born while his father was on tour in San Francisco, and then raised in Hong Kong over what became an at times troubled childhood. Sent to live in America at the age of 18, he began teaching Kung Fu in Seattle, and established a following that included his future wife, Linda. His ambition ever rising, Lee eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where he strove to break into American film and television. There, despite some success as a fight choreographer and actor, it was clear Hollywood wasn’t ready for an Asian leading man – and so he returned to Hong Kong to make the films that would in fact make him a legend, his international star skyrocketing just as his life was cut short.

“Be Water” is told entirely by the family, friends, and collaborators who knew Bruce Lee best, with an extraordinary trove of archive film providing an evocative, immersive visual tapestry that captures Lee’s charisma, his passion, his philosophy, and the eternal beauty and wonder of his art.

The Criterion Collection is releasing a Bruce Lee box set on July 14 collecting his greatest hits in one place, but before then, the 30 for 30 film Be Water debuts on ESPN on June 7, 2020.

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