ESPN’s “30 for 30” Be Water documentary goes beyond the meteoritic success of Bruce Lee to examine the humanistic qualities that made him a pivotal martial artist, philosopher, and film star “when America wasn’t ready for an Asian hero.” Since it aired last night, Twitter has been touting the documentary, not only for its nuanced treatment of Lee as a person but also for how relevant the themes are at this point in history.
Director Bao Nguyen follows Lee’s life, from his early years as a child star in Hong Kong to his move to the US in 1959 and his eventual break into Hollywood. Be Water situates Lee’s journey within the context of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the civil rights movement. Bolstered by incredible archive footage, Nguyen illustrates how important Lee’s visibility was for Asian-American representation, and race relations more broadly, at a pivotal time in American history.
Lee’s life was a form of protest and that is reiterated in Be Water. From his covert rejection of the model minority myth to his solidarity with the civil rights movement, the impact Lee had in his short life cannot be overstated. Watch the trailer below and scroll down to see the best Twitter reactions.