Documentary - Completed 2018

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.

Filmed over six years, BRUCE LEE & THE OUTLAW is a modern-day Oliver Twist story under the streets of Bucharest.

& Awards

Busan IFF 2018
Busan Cinephile Award
Warsaw FF 2018
Documentary Competition
Sheffield doc/fest 2018
cent scot docu fest 2018
Tallinn Black Nights IFF 2018
Antenna FF Sydney 2018
East Silver market 2018
    • Year of production
    • 2018
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 82 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Joost VANDEBRUG
    • Producer(s)
    • Andrea CORNWELL (Grain Media), Joachim VAN TROMMEL (Revolver)
    • Synopsis
    • 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.