ESPN has brought several prominent figures to the forefront with its 30 for 30 documentary series. Now the latest will focus on martial arts and movie star Bruce Lee. The Enter the Dragon star takes center stage on Sunday, June 7.
Be Water, directed by Bao Nguyen, focuses on Lee's rise to icon status and the difficulties he faced during his 32 years of life. His time in the short-lived Green Hornet series will likely be shown. The stereotypes he faced upon moving to the United States at the age of 18 will also take center stage. The documentary uses archive footage and interviews to tell Lee's story from a variety of perspectives.
In one week, Bruce Lee 🍿June 1, 2020
"I was just blown away," Nguyen said about watching Lee's films. "I'd never seen a lead actor who looked like me. 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."
Nguyen has directed 11 documentary series during his career, and he told ESPN that there are still obstacles in Hollywood for Asians. However, he says that Lee opened doors that previously did not exist. "I think sometimes it's lost, with Bruce Lee being such a household name today. But at the time he was trying to make it in America, it was a difficult period for Asian Americans," he said.
One storyline for Be Water will revolve around the combination of martial arts styles. Lee realized that he had to adapt due to many of his students coming from different backgrounds. He reportedly studied boxers and mixed styles of martial arts, which many believe created the path to Mixed Martial Arts.
"If it hadn't been for the explosion of interest that Bruce Lee generated, there would have been no martial arts community for the UFC to appeal to," Matthew Polly, author "Bruce Lee: A Life," said. "If the Gracies are the Jesus of mixed martial arts, Bruce Lee was the John the Baptist. He was the one who pointed the way to what was coming. But he died before it came."
Lee's most popular film is Enter the Dragon, which hit theaters on Aug. 19, 1973. The film's star did not see the release. He died of cerebral edema on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.