THIRTY-NINE years later Bruce Lee still has kick.
I Am Bruce Lee, a new film by Network Entertainment, is an emotional documentary that focuses on the life and times of the late Hong Kong superstar. It includes footage from his films, archival interviews and a close up look at his career as an actor and martial artist.
Network Entertainment's founder producer Derik Murray, born and raised in North Vancouver, says viewers won't be seeing a typical documentary film. "This is not your father's documentary," he says. "This is entertaining, action-packed and it's moving.
Bruce really comes to life in this movie."
Murray along with executive producer Paul Gertz and director Pete McCormack previously worked together on Facing Ali, an award winning documentary that was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2010.
I Am Bruce Lee received its world premiere earlier this week in a gala presentation at Vancity Theatre in Vancouver.
"This is a night where we celebrate everybody's collective work and passion to make this project happen," Murray says. "It's an opportunity for Network Entertainment to tell their story, that we are a company that has decided to remain in Canada and build our business in Vancouver."
The idea to create a documentary based on Bruce Lee's life came during the production of Facing Ali.
"We always have this list of names up on a wall of icons that we would like to work with and create properties around and Bruce Lee was on the top of the list," Murray says. "Very few people on the planet haven't heard of Bruce Lee. Yet, not a lot of people know much about him. I think what we have done is brought the whole story to the table in a very entertaining and provocative fashion."
The documentary's cast is made of individuals who have been heavily influenced by Lee.
It includes UFC president Dana White, Kobe Byrant, Mickey Rourke, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Bob Wall, Lee's daughter Shannon and his wife Linda Lee Cadwell.
"We wanted to talk to people whose lives in some way were impacted by Bruce Lee," Gertz says. "A lot of the people in the film are inspired by Bruce's philosophy, not just his incredible skills."
When her dad passed away in 1973 at the age of 32, Shannon was only four years old.
"My memories of him are very brief," she says. "But the thing I remember about him primarily was his energy. That's the impression that I am left with from those memories."
Murray says the documentary offers something for anyone who is interested to learn more about the man.
"This is a film that Bruce Lee aficionados are going to come in and garner something from the film. But for those who know who Bruce is and they recognize that he is an icon but don't know why are going to come out this film entertained, they are going to laugh and they are going to cry," Murray says. "This is going to be a real emotional and inspiring experience."
Despite being born five years after Lee's death in 1973, Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant has been heavily influenced by the martial arts legend. Byrant studies and trains in Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do.
"Many athletes from different walks of life have been influenced by his writings and thoughts on martial arts and apply it to their own sport and Kobe Bryant is one of them," Lee says. "He has taken a lot of my father's philosophy of movement and applied it to his sport."
"Kobe also grew up in Italy and one of the most famous scenes of Bruce Lee's films was the scene where Lee and Chuck Norris were fighting at the Coliseum and that was legendary in Italy," Gertz says.
I Am Bruce Lee tells her father's story in a very unique way.
"It does tell his story but it tells it through the eyes of the people who knew him and through the eyes of the people who have been influenced by him," Lee says. "It's an interesting perspective because those people didn't even know him."
Gertz originally lived in Los Angeles before moving to North Vancouver over five years ago. He says the documentary will help the younger generation understand more about who Lee was.
"My kids are teenagers; they all know the name Bruce Lee and they just know that it's cool but they don't know why," Gertz says. "I think when people watch this film even if they do know Bruce Lee . . . what they might learn throughout this film is all the areas he touched."
"He is much more than just the action figure that some people might know him as today," Murray added.
I Am Bruce Lee has received excellent reviews from media outlets across North America but Gertz says the positive reviews from the Lee family were very rewarding.
"The fact that they saw the film and reacted the way they did was just as gratifying as the response that we have gotten from reviewers and journalists."
The film will be showing in Canadian theatres on March 8 and 17. It will also be released to over 175 theatres across the United States.
Shannon Lee is also the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, an organization that aims to preserve Lee's life examples through educational programs. They recently launched a plan to build a Bruce Lee museum in Seattle.
"It's a project I am very passionate about," she says. "The premiere of the film in Vancouver was a fundraiser for the project so I am very excited about that."
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