FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – in partnership with ESPN 30 For 30, FascinAsian Film Festival 2021 proudly presents:
Description: In 1971, after being rejected by Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to his parents’ homeland, Hong Kong. Over the next two years, he’d complete four iconic films that would define his legacy, a legacy cut short when he died, stunningly, in the summer of 1973. He was 32 years old.
“Be Water” is a gripping, fascinating, intimate look at not just those final, defining years of Lee’s life, but the complex, often difficult, and seismic journey that led to Lee’s ultimate emergence as a singular icon in the histories of film, martial arts, and even the connection between the eastern and western worlds. The film chronicles Lee’s earliest days, as the son of a Chinese opera star born while his father was on tour in San Francisco, and then raised in Hong Kong over what became an at times troubled childhood. Sent to live in America at the age of 18, he began teaching Kung Fu in Seattle, and established a following that included his future wife, Linda. His ambition ever rising, Lee eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where he strove to break into American film and television. There, despite some success as a fight choreographer and actor, it was clear Hollywood wasn’t ready for an Asian leading man – and so he returned to Hong Kong to make the films that would in fact make him a legend, his international star skyrocketing just as his life was cut short.
“Be Water” is told entirely by the family, friends, and collaborators who knew Bruce Lee best, with an extraordinary trove of archive film providing an evocative, immersive visual tapestry that captures Lee’s charisma, his passion, his philosophy, and the eternal beauty and wonder of his art.
Produced By: Julia Nottingham
Voice Actor: Shannon Lee
Director of Photography: Caleb Heller
Producer: Bao Nguyen
Editor: Graham Taylor
Bio: Bao Nguyen is an LA-based filmmaker whose past work has been seen in the New York Times, HBO, NBC, Vice, ARTE, and PBS, among many others. He has directed, produced, and shot a number of short films, which have played internationally in numerous festivals and museums including MoMA and the Smithsonian. His graduate thesis film JULIAN won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, the Best Student Documentary Short at the Palm Springs ShortsFest, Special Jury Prize at DOCNYC, and was nominated for an IDA Award. The first documentary feature he produced, ONCE IN A LULLABY, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, won the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival, and was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award. Afterwards, he co-produced WHERE HEAVEN MEETS HELL, which won many awards including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Documentary Film and a Special Jury award for Outstanding Cinematography at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, and the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Hawaii International Film Festival. At the One World International Human Rights Film Festival in Prague, the Vaclav Havel Jury gave a Special Mention Award to the film for being a documentary that has made an exceptional contribution to the defense of human rights. In 2014, he was the producer and cinematographer of NUOC 2030, a feature narrative set in near future Vietnam which opened the Panorama section of the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival and was a recipient of the Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Filmmaker Award. LIVE FROM NEW YORK!, celebrating 40 years of Saturday Night Live, would be Bao’s feature documentary directorial debut. It opened the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast nationally in primetime on NBC, preceding the 41st season premiere on SNL. His latest directorial effort, BE WATER, a documentary about cultural icon Bruce Lee, world premiered in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and will be broadcast on ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. He is a 2011 PBS/WGBH Producers Workshop Fellow, and alumnus of the 2012 and 2014 Berlinale Talent Campus, and a Firelight Media Fellow. He earned his BA at NYU and his MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.