Review: Be Water (Sundance 2020)

Title: Be Water
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Bao Nguyen
Starring: Bruce Lee
Runtime: 1 hr 45 mins

What It Is: An intimate portrait of an icon of not just martial arts but film and entertainment…Bruce Lee. Through the use of exclusive archival footage from the Lee family, we learn of his birth here in the United States. His early days as a child star and his life in America starting at only 18 years old. Documentarian Bao Nguyen guides us on this journey of cinema’s most iconic martial arts actor. Giving us all angles and dimensions a legend.

What We Think: Nguyen really tries some things here but doesn’t REALLY pull them all off. It’s a beautifully crafted piece but one that is hurt by changes in tone and emotional pull. The pure information provided is kind of vague. This is certainly helped by the private photos and videos Nguyen was able to acquire. The films main trick is strictly sticking to the voice of the interviewees; a trick Bao Nguyen explained by stating he didn’t want to take away from the narrative with a cut to someone who’s in their 80’s when most of the storytelling is done when those people were young in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Our Grade: C+, ESPN Films should be commended for the work they’ve put into their documentaries since they started their 30 for 30 series some time ago. That said this is by no mean the best doc coming out of Sundance that honor belongs to Into the Deep. Still, it should be very easy to seek this out and find it. If you’re a fan of the legendary martial artist…totally go look this up whenever ESPN Films drops it. It is a very niche audience for this. As a doc it doesn’t satisfy enough doe documentary buffs as a piece of sports storytelling it isn’t nearly as enthralling.

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