ESPN’s next documentary will chronicle the life of Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist and actor whose work influenced Hollywood’s martial arts films and the industry’s acceptance of Asians in cinema.
“Be Water,” which takes its name from one of Lee’s famous quotes, will document all aspect of Lee’s career, from his early rejections from Hollywood to his eventual emergence as one of history’s most iconic martial artists and actors.
Per ESPN, 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.
Lee is remembered as one of the most influential actors to appear in Hollywood films and his work helped bridge the divide between Eastern and Western cultures. The documentary’s trailer shows Lee as he works to break down racist sentiments in western culture regarding Asians and champions his inclusive and positive outlook on martial arts and pop culture.
Popular on IndieWire
“Be Water” will contain a variety of interviews from Lee’s family, friends, and the collaborators who knew him best, as well as multitudes of archival footage that centers on Lee’s charisma and philosophy.
As for director Bao Nguyen, “Be Water” is the latest in a string of socially conscious documentaries from the Los Angeles filmmaker. Nguyen previously directed documentaries such as “We Gon’ Be Alright,” which centered on racial issues, and the short “Where Are You Really From?,” which centered on the story of Nguyen’s parents escaping from Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon.
The documentary will premiere on ESPN and ESPN2 on June 7 at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. Check out the trailer for “Be Water” below: