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Film gets criticism and accusations of white-washing

Reporter: May Lee 丨 CCTV.com

11-15-2016 00:31 BJT

Bruce Lee is a global icon who's considered, by many, as one of the most influential martial artists of all time. A new biographical film about Lee has recently come out of Hollywood, but it's been met with a lot of criticism and accusations of white-washing.

Bruce Lee is, arguably, the most famous martial arts star in modern history amazing for a man who only lived to be 32 years old. A newly released biopic highlights Lee's early years, including his controversial fight with master Wong Jack Man. The film is aptly entitled, "Birth of the Dragon." But the movie is being met with heavy criticism, the producers accused of white-washing and side-lining Bruce Lee in his own biographical story - and giving the film's starring role to a white fictional character. Fans are lashing out. Entertainment data site, IMDB, is riddled with harsh comments.

"Is this a joke? I am here to see Bruce Lee, but they put the focus on some white guy."

"Enough is enough, we Asians are already sick of the whole whitewashing thing."

"Why not cast Justin Timberlake as Bruce Lee? This movie is an absolute travesty."
Variety's senior film reporter, Jim Rainey, is a bit surprised by the backlash given the efforts made by the filmmakers to get it right. 

"They spent quite a bit of time in China, they talked to martial arts experts. They had the real Wong Jack Man on set, the other protagonist in the film, on set, for at least part of the filming of the film so I think they felt like they had buy in from the martial arts community for their film," said Jim Rainey. 

Birth of the Dragon producer Michael London tried to defend the biopic at a recent film festival and perhaps unintentionally revealed the disturbing reality of Hollywood decision making.  In a statement, he said, "It was made primarily to allow distributors to see the film as a marketable proposition." London went on to say that during the making of the film he was actually more concerned about making a Hollywood movie that had only one white character. For martial artists and long-time Bruce Lee fans Nhan-Esteban Khuong and his wife Victoria, they choose to ignore all the noise about the film and instead focus on Lee's legacy of breaking down barriers and bridging cultures. 
"That's, I think, one of the things that Bruce Lee was trying to do, by opening doors. Not just keeping these secrets. And instead, let's put it out there and see what happens," said Nhan-Esteban Khuong, Jeet Kune Do Instructor.

"I really admire him. I think he's the kind of people who was on earth for a period of time and really changes things and inspires people to be themselves instead of following somebody else,"  said Victoria Vives Khuong, Jeet Kune Do Student.

And with legions of fans around the world, the inspirational legacy of Bruce Lee will undoubtedly survive this latest controversy and firmly remain as a memorable part of Chinese and American history.

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