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Pablo Croce: Like Water

Anderson Silva is the longest reigning Middleweight Champ in UFC history and a quiet family man—an anomaly that's made him the target of media misunderstanding.

Director Pablo Croce


Tribeca: Tell us a little about Like Water.


Pablo Croce:
Like Water takes audiences on the journey of reigning UFC champ Anderson Silva. It’s a look into the most private and honest day-to-day life of the man behind the fighter. It’s a great doc that minimizes the use of talking heads to tell the story. Nothing can truly recreate reality as it is. We get close very close in arts, but the unpredicted chain of events of reality is never surpassed. This film uses a cinema verite approach to narrate the events, subtle moments and facts of this man’s journey from one controversial fight to the other. I must say our editor Andy Grieve was fundamental on achieving this. What an amazing editor!  


Tribeca: What is the inspiration for the title of the film?


Pablo Croce:
It comes from Anderson and an interview with Bruce Lee in which he said a martial artist should be “like water.” The strong association of Bruce Lee’s commentary to Anderson’s style of fighting made us choose this title, but lets not fool ourselves with the water element; water can crush your bones.

Tribeca: What inspired you to document this story? Were you a UFC fan? Did you know Anderson? If not when/how did you first meet him?


Pablo Croce:
Frankly, I am a filmmaker that comes from different walks of life. A musician at first, I was originally dedicated to music videos in my work in film. My Off-Broadway musical Siudy: Between Worlds was here in NYC for a limited engagement, and I also worked in TV and advertising. I was approached with this project by Jared Freedman, my producer, who had the vision and timing to understand the potential of Anderson’s story. 


At first, my fascination with this project came out of the challenge it presented, as I had no prior knowledge or relationship to Anderson. I engaged myself in the subject at hand, in the intensity and commitment of the work put in by all athletes, then Anderson himself as a man, the UFC, and mixed martial arts, which I had always admired. I was first introduced to Anderson by Ed Soares when he walked into Black House (his gym in LA), and he was so friendly that it made me feel super comfortable in his presence. I wasn’t a fan of his prior to our meeting, and didn’t know much about UFC fighting, but quickly began learning. The crew and I spent a few weeks becoming invisible to Anderson and his trainers, becoming a day to day element, a fly on the wall. Anderson and his trainers became at ease around us, and day by day I was convinced we were in the presence of greatness.


Like Water


Tribeca: Anderson is a very private man. How receptive was he to you making this documentary and how did you gain his trust?  


Pablo Croce:
Anderson is always receptive. He is a fun person to be around. He certainly needs his privacy the same as anyone else, and his honesty about that is probably what creates controversy with the media and the UFC. During filming, if he ever felt he didn’t want cameras around him, he let us know. After, he would apologize and invite us to come anywhere with him. I am not sure I can say that I gained his trust at a certain time. Anderson is extremely sensible and has a very keen eye for reading people, a very big asset in his profession. So I really didn’t think this documentary would get made if he didn’t trust us from day one.


Tribeca: How did your perception of Anderson change as you got to know him personally? The media really doesn’t portray him as a likable figure, but do you think that’s just because he doesn’t feed their frenzy?


Pablo Croce:
Anderson is a wonderful person. He really seeks the best for his family and anyone around him, especially coming from a humble background. From his McDonald’s job to being a World Champion, he always sees his job as a responsibility. He is there to fight and win his fights, and promoting each fight happens to be part of this, but this does not come naturally to him. He speaks little English, less than he would like to, and his daily concerns are mostly on his fight skills. He studies training videos daily and calls his family and kids frequently too, to check on grades, events, soccer training and so on.


If he is not feeling great on a day when he needs to promote, he’ll try, but he can’t really fake it too much. In my opinion, the media is sometimes quite selfish and can fall into a boring routine with their questions—the same way some major paper critics quite often miss the point of the art they are covering.


Tribeca: Family and friends are very important to Anderson. Can you talk about his entourage on the road and their role in helping him train and keeping him grounded?


Pablo Croce:
I greatly respected the bond between all the guys in his team and entourage; however, learning about their protectiveness towards Anderson was quite interesting. The training routines are extreme in terms of their physical demand, and everyone there spars with him, taking turns round after round (15 times for 5 minutes). Everyone is extremely careful to avoid injuring Anderson; however, they must offer him strong rounds for his preparation. Everyone is also silently observing his mental and physical state. 


Keeping this balance was astonishing to me. To really train him and prepare him, they have to give him 100% physical resistance on training rounds, and sometimes they were so hard on him. It was quite intense, and it was amazing to me how they maintained this balance in training. These are brave men.


Like Water

Tribeca: Your doc centers on Anderson’s matchup against Chael Sonnen in 2010 for the UFC Championship. Sonnen is quite the entertainer.


Pablo Croce:
Yes, he is quite something. I think he is a nice guy to be around, very welcoming, but in our film his comments, and especially the outcome of the fight, made him the perfect villain for the script! I think he is honest too, but goes beyond a point with certain statements that get him in trouble, but the man is committed, and a hell of a fighter. He won that fight; he had won 4 rounds out of 5 and got trapped by Anderson 2 minutes before the 5th was over. Anderson came back and submitted the guy.


However, Chael was brave enough to state at the press conference that he didn’t get to win and that Anderson’s comeback is what champions do, acknowledging Silva as the champ. Chael was entertaining; however, he made this film quite something as a character—if you tried to write a character like him, you’d never get anything like what we got in this documentary.

Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production?


Pablo Croce:
Anderson was taken to the hospital one week before the fight due to a rib injury. We were not around to document this; we just got doctors’ reports and some of him training in pain. His injury was caused by a teammate while training. The doctor recommended he withdraw from the fight, but there was so much at stake, plus Anderson didn’t want to disappoint Dana White nor the UFC. In the fight, the guys said that after the first round, he came to the corner and said that he wasn’t able to breathe, and this we couldn’t get either… but at least now I can reveal it!

Tribeca: What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Like Water?


Pablo Croce:
That keeping a perspective of what is important in life will keep you real. Nothing that is given to you is really taken away, since it was never yours. This comes out of Anderson Silva’s thoughts regarding his belt vs. his family. Watch the film.

Tribeca: What are your hopes for Like Water at Tribeca?


Pablo Croce:
This is a great opportunity for me as a filmmaker and for the film to find distribution. I must say that I really hope everyone will watch it. But personally, I hope that Like Water’s screenings will bring Anderson’s story to the eye of the world and help the media and people unrelated to the sport to understand him better. We are constantly fighting in this life with so many things, and everything can always turn around for the better or worse. It’s our preparation and power of mind that can keep us standing. This man knows about this.

Tribeca: Will Anderson be making it to NYC for any of the screenings?


Pablo Croce:
Yes. He’ll be around.


Tribeca: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?


Pablo Croce:
Grab a camera and do it. Look for your own instincts inside and be careful with “proven producers” that know more about the business than you. In my experience, some people in this business have taken my wonderful ideas and stories and re-written them, reinventing what they were charmed with in the first place and really screwing up a filmmaker’s spirit, in this case mine. So do your thing and keep control of all your most valuable creations until you can come up with proven material to deal with people who “know more than you.”

Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


Pablo Croce:
Martin Scorsese.

Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/TV show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


Pablo Croce:
  My Off-Broadway play Siudy: Between Worlds.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


Pablo Croce:
Water! Hahahahaha...


Tribeca: What makes Like Water a Tribeca must-see?


Pablo Croce:
Its dramatic outcome and its connectivity to the ground.

Find out where and when Like Water is playing at the Festival.



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