BRUCE LEE OUTLAW
A film by Joost Vandebrug
brutal, beautiful portrait
of a Romanian street kid
SOS Children village
Nicu, a young homeless boy, is adopted by Bruce Lee, the notorious “King of the Underworld”
and goes to live with him in the tunnels underneath Bucharest.
As Nicu grows up, he starts to realise that perhaps the King of the Underworld is not the perfect father,and has to make a choice between staying in Bruce's gang,
or living a 'normal' life above ground.
Filmed over six years, BRUCE LEE and the OUTLAW is a modern-day
Oliver Twist story under the streets of Bucharest.
Nicu lives with his gang of friends in the streets and parks around Bucharest’s North Station.
Huffing from bags of silver paint, they beg and solicit to survive, building friendships
among the growing street community of kids.
The local celebrity is Bruce Lee, the self-proclaimed King of Bucharest’s Underworld. Painted silver (in the same paint they all inhale), he both deals in the drug, and is the drug. His kingdom
is in the underground network of tunnels built by Ceausescu as central heating ducts for the city.
Nicu and his friends move into the tunnels and under Bruce Lee’s protection. For Nicu, Bruce Lee now becomes “Dad”, and in turn he names him “Haiduc” or Outlaw. Bruce lays bricks, taps electricity from street lamps, and finds furniture, paintings and televisions...
transforming the tunnels into a real home.
The tunnels turn feverishly hot in the summer, and Bruce begins to expand the empire up above ground into the ‘Shelter’ - an empty building near the station. His dream is to buy the huge dilapidated hotel that looms over their street corner ... a place where all the homeless can live together as a community away from the hassle from police and authorities.
Nicu revels in his position as Bruce’s favourite child. Yet, the chaos of the tunnels is a brutal environment, and one summer Nicu becomes severely ill. Shivering and painfully thin, he struggles to breathe and seems to be days from death.
Joost the filmmaker intervenes, and takes him to hospital, alongside Raluca, an NGO worker who had regularly brought the tunnel community food and essential supplies.
Joost is shocked to find that instead of the nine or ten years of age that he appears, Nicu is actually 16. Nicu is given maybe two months to live. But with daily visits from Raluca, he finds the will to survive. He takes his medicine, and almost miraculously gathers his strength.
Nicu leaves hospital and moves into the Dog Rescue Shelter with Raluca. She feeds him, clothes him, and encourages him to leave ‘the bag’ alone. At sixteen years old, he experiences
his first ever day at school.
But the tug of tunnel-life is still strong. As Nicu’s old gang regroup around him, will Nicu stay on the stable path of a ‘normal’ life, or slip back into the fun and freedom of the tunnels,
no matter how dangerous it may be?
Ultimately, Nicu must choose his path, between the father he so admires, or with his new mother.
"Beautiful. Tender. Brutal. Vandebrug’s film should be allowed to stand alone, as a portrait of one child who stands for too many."
"This is an incredibly personal work from a filmmaker that is bound to become hugely influential"
"A poignant, beautiful snapshot of a young boy’s most important years"
"A story everyone should hear, powerfully executed and visually flawless."
"This striking film follows the problematic relationship over six years, with moments of celebration as well as bleakness."