As we reported a couple of weeks ago, a biopic of the alleged 'hidden' fight between Bruce Lee and martial arts instructor Wong Jack Man in San Francisco during the '60s is in the works and is headed to our cinemas pretty shortly.
The story varies depending on who's telling it - Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee's wife, argued that the fight between Man and Lee concerned the teaching of Chinese martial arts to foreigners whilst Wong simply says that a challenge was issued to him from a mutual acquaintance by Lee. Whatever the case, a fight took place in private between the two and therein lies what Birth Of The Dragon was supposed to be about.
However, an early screening of the film has now allegedly proven otherwise. iMDB users who viewed the film a couple of weeks ago at a pre-screening are angrily speaking out against the film and accusing it of whitewashing. One user said that Birth of the Dragon "reduces Bruce Lee into a side character in his own story to force a white guy into the lead," while another says that the film "serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes regarding Asian women, men, and the culture."
It's hard to know exactly what the case is, as we haven't seen the film yet. The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and very few reviews have surfaced online so far. Users on iMDB claim that the film doesn't have the backing of the Bruce Lee Foundation or Linda Lee Cadwell. Moreover, Lee's daughter, Shannon is reportedly working on a biopic of her father's legacy.
In a 2015 interview, Shannon stated that "...(there) have been projects out there involving my father but they’ve lacked a complete understanding of his philosophies and artistry. They haven’t captured the essence of his beliefs in martial arts or storytelling. The only way to get audiences to understand the depth and uniqueness of my father is to generate our own material.”
This isn't the first time whitewashing, specifically whitewashing of Asian characters, has been an issue for films. An adaptation of popular anime series Ghost In The Shell came under fire for casting Scarlett Johansson in the lead role, a role which was originally portrayed by an Asian woman.
No Irish release date has been set for Birth Of The Dragon.