If there’s one topic in MMA that never fails to fuel the speculation of media and fans, it’s this: What’s going on in Anderson Silva’s head? The language barrier doesn’t help with North Americans, and the translations are loose (and usually boring). There are the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde antics in the cage. There are interconnected associations with such things as Steven Seagal and paintball and Big Macs.
Yet above all else, there’s the long-tenured, record-breaking champion with a captivating -- if unintentional -- sense of mystery.
A new film entitled "Like Water" will premiere April 21 in Manhattan at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it pulls the curtain back to reveal (in cussword-included subtitles) Anderson Silva in a context you wouldn’t expect. How? Filmmaker Pablo Croce centers on travail. Rather than dog-earring the illustrious side of Silva’s MMA career, Croce captures scrutiny and derision in painstaking detail within a three-month window that begins post-Demian Maia at UFC 112 and ends with Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. There are glimpses into other aspects (his family life, training, idling, interacting with fans), but the gravity of the film is based on a walls-closing-in sense of situation. Silva spends a lot of time negating the negative.
It’s not that we see Dana White peeved and telling Jim Rome he’ll cut the champion if he made a mockery of the Octagon again; it’s what you get out of Silva watching it, absorbing his own bizarre behavior. It’s that you see him lament to Lyoto Machida-san that "everybody wants a brawl." We see self-reflective Silva, dealing in issues of esteem. It’s not long before things shift to the montages of Chael Sonnen, who became (what he thought was) the mouthpiece of public sentiment in bashing Silva at every turn. Through the entire lead-up to the epic battle at UFC 117, Silva takes things in while maintaining an opiate calm.
Yet there are glimpses into moods, caught when Silva hangs Soares out to dry with one-word answers during an interview. Or when he tells his friend/teammate, "You’re screwed until I forget you’re screwed" out of frustration with his fight. You see him in ordinary situations (like at the airport) doing extraordinary things (like putting his belt through security). What you don’t see is Silva cracking under surmounting pressure, but the pressure is real and ends up being the star of the film.
And that becomes the documentary’s merit; it not only depicts the mettle of Silva on multiple levels, but it peers into the fight game in general through the back door. As much as we are shown Silva in intimate situations, you also see Sonnen intimately. We see the wirework beneath the surface and, as cliché as it seems, a human side to the fighters all too commonly regarded as products.
In other words, you empathize with Silva, which has long been something foreign to us.