“Empty Your Mind, Be Formless, Shapeless — Like Water.”
A new Bruce Lee documentary that premiered at Sundance is hoping to affect the Oscars race for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.
Be Water, directed by Bao Nguyen for ESPN films, presents a vision of the late martial arts star that’s far different than the stereotype presented in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
In the film, stuntman Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, beats the crap out of a cocky Lee, a portrayal the Lee family says misrepresented the Kung-Fu legend
Through interviews with Lee’s surviving family and friends, Nguyen’s film drives home how Hollywood’s intolerance toward Asian Americans cost Lee dearly. For instance, Lee wanted the lead role in the TV series Kung Fu but was told he wasn’t suitable due to his Hong Kong accent. The part went to a white guy.
Nguyen joked –
“If Brad wins an acting Oscar, we’ll know why,”
Nguyen’s film dodges speculation how Lee died when he was only 32 years old—and it doesn’t mention that Lee died at his mistress’ apartment.
Also unmentioned is the fact that Lee had his armpit sweat glands removed shortly before his death because he thought sweat looked bad on film. It’s long been argued the star may have died of heatstroke, very likely exacerbated by his lack of glands and Lee’s ferocious work rate.
But the story of his mistress and Lee eating cannabis on the day of his death might undercut the honest intention that Nguyen portrays with a throwaway comment of Lee admitting he does have “imperfections”.
Be Water is an ESPN 30 for 30 Film and premieres at The MARC Theater at Sundance January 25th. The documentary will be released on Netflix later this year.