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'Like Water' doc lets people absorb Anderson Silva

Ed Soares raised his hand to his face and rubbed it in anguish. With this simple gesture, a form of body language easily relatable to everyone, Soares communicated the enigma that is Anderson Silva.

Silva's manager and translator, Soares was facilitating a conference call for UFC 117. Silva was giving one-word answers -- mainly "No" -- while his opponent Chael Sonnen delighted the mixed martial arts writers on the call with remarkable and gutsy quotes. The media grew incensed at Silva's apparent disengagement from the promoting aspect of being a fighter.

It is just one of the fascinating scenes in "Like Water," a documentary by Pablo Croce that followed Silva in the three months leading up to his UFC 117 title defense against  Sonnen in August. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21 and screened three more times this past weekend in Manhattan.

Silva, the UFC middleweight champion since 2006, plays the chameleon when it comes to his public image and fight persona. You never know which Silva will show up. At times, he's charismatic, engaging, dynamic and owner of a smile that can light up a room. And at times, he's the kid who is not touching you and telling you he's not touching you -- completely frustrating.

"For him, this film will reveal what he's about and why he comes across as he does," Croce told the audience at Tribeca Cinemas on Saturday. "It's a great way to know him better."

The documentary, which takes its title from a Bruce Lee philosophy of the same name, does what good documentaries do. It turns a person into a character that everyone wants to relate to and brings authenticity to its subject. Croce won the best new documentary director award for this piece.

"Like Water" will send non-MMA fans to a computer to search for more information on Silva. There, they come across his Michael Jackson dance as a ring entrance in Japan, or his antics in the cage against Demian Maia at UFC 112. They may watch a video of Silva with his family, or see a clip of UFC president Dana White threatening to cut Silva from the sport's top promotion.

They may even read about Silva's connection to Steven Seagal. Yes, that Steven Seagal.

"In our film," Croce told an audience Saturday, "he's a little bit of comic relief."

The success of "Like Water" comes from Croce's background in mixed martial arts. He has none. He never even met Silva before this project came about.

"Our plan was to use my eyes and my understanding to discover Anderson," Croce said.


Croce brings Silva to life in ways you'd never see in a UFC Countdown show or other promotional videos. He had access to the inner circle, both inside Blackhouse Gym in Los Angeles and during UFC 117. There are conversations between Silva and teammates Lyoto Machida and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among others. There's a moment where Silva tells Nogueira that he's going to submit Sonnen.

What there isn't much of is mention of Silva's rib injury prior to the fight. Croce didn't want to make it a big deal. Plus, "They spent a week hiding it," Croce said. "They were hiding it from us."

New York Sports