The newest ESPN 30-for-30 documentary is all about Bruce Lee! Be Water (2020) shines a deserving spotlight on the iconic martial artist, actor, and man. The philosophies of Bruce Lee mean a lot to me personally, as I grew up idolizing the man. His legacy is made all the more impressive because of how short it truly was – and this documentary really connects with that idea.
With voice-over commentary and interviews from Lee’s wife Linda and daughter Shannon, plus a variety of film critics, friends, and more – there is a wealth of information about Lee’s life that fans will know or have seen in the medicare biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). It’s structured in a fairly conventional way, but Lee’s story is so compelling – and the man so charismatic – that had it been just an image of him with Bruce talking over it, the film would still be endlessly watchable.
One section of the documentary that I’d known but forgotten was Lee’s involvement with the creation of the TV series Kung Fu. Ultimately, Lee was essential in the concept development of the show but was told he was too Asian to be the lead that was basically written for him in the first place. Lee’s story takes place during the civil rights movement and frequently deals with discrimination and prejudice – making this documentary feel even more poignant.
If you have access to ESPN+ you can stream Be Water right now, and I think it is definitely worth your time. The movie sparked an old fire in me and made me feel hopeful in a time when so much feels hopeless. I choked back a few tears while watching this, and others broke through and ran down my cheek. The sheer concept Lee puts into the world of being water is something more of us need to be considering in today’s climate. Be adaptable. Be willing to change to fit the container we find ourselves in. Be soft, and yet be able to be tough when called upon. Be Water earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.