New York State Writers Institute - Classic Film Series

February 26, 1997 (Wednesday) at 3:30 p.m.
(Note: Day and Time Change)

Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue
(Free and Open to the Public)

(American, 1996, 120 minutes, color, 35 mm)
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Richard Belzer, De'aundre Bonds, Andre Braugher

October 16th will mark the two year anniversary of the Million Man March in which director Spike Lee welcomes you aboard a journey of discovery.

GET ON THE BUS tells the story of a group of men who board a bus as strangers, headed for the historic Million Man March, but emerge three days and thousands of miles later as brothers: an estranged father struggling to connect with his teenage son; an aspiring actor who is filled with hate; a cop desperate to end the slaughter he sees on the streets of his city; a devout Muslim whose nightmares echo with the blast of gunfire; an old man who has made an honest living but never truly lived; a film student who wants to capture it all on tape ' and the driver whose job it is to get them from one side of the nation to the other.

Their journey is not just across America, but down forgotten roads within themselves and onto the common ground of unity and hope on which they all must tread.

Producer Reuben Cannon, who spearheaded the fund-raising to get the film made, was impressed by the far reaching cooperation from the cast. They endured a grueling three-week shooting schedule with extreme climate changes, long hours, and moderate lodging. "The metaphor used during the fundraising and filmmaking process was ‘are you on the bus or off the bus,"' Cannon recalls. 'All those who came on board, either as actors or investors, came with a love and dedication for the project which I've never seen practiced in the Hollywood community. This speaks to the pioneering spirit and the respect for what we accomplished with this production."

Shot for three weeks on location in Los Angeles, Tennessee, Virginia and finally Washington, D.C., the low-budget film brought the maverick director back to his early filmmaking roots. 'It was an exercise in making films the way I began,' says Lee. "From my guerrilla filmmaking days, it was a matter of knowing what we needed and getting it."

The investors are actors Danny Glover, Wesley Snipes, Will Smith and Robert Guillaume, San Antonio Spurs basketball player Charles D. Smith, director Spike Lee, casting director and producer Reuben Cannon, the film's screenwriter Reggie Rock Bythewood, attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. record mogul Jheryl Busby, businessman Olden Lee, stock broker Lemuel Daniels, record producer/ attorney/manager Larkin Arnold, investment banker Calvin Grigsby and chairman and CEO of BET Robert Johnson.

Danny Glover is one of Hollywood's most politically active and socially conscious African-American actors. Glover lent his financial support to the project because he hoped it would have community impact. 'You have black men of African descent who're deciding what they're gonna do and not just talking about it.' Therefore Glover felt it was important to support a film that addressed that march.

Likewise, investor Johnnie Cochran believes supporting projects in which the African-American community has creative control helps to instill greater pride on a community-wide level. 'It says to African-American men, we can come together, we can do this. And it says to others in the community, we should be more united.'

About the director: Spike Lee began his film career with independently financed features that ignited into a career of great thought provoking films that continues with GET ON THE BUS.

Lee's pioneering films have blazed a lasting trail for black filmmakers all over the world. His films' propensity to polarize audiences have earned him a reputation for being controversial. ‘GET ON THE BUS, alternately, eschews controversy in favor of gentle storytelling. Besides, notes Lee, "it tells a story that needed to be told.'

Other movies from director Spike Lee: Spike Lee's other great and controversial films includes MALCOLM X, the critically acclaimed film that chronicles the life of the visionary black leader, or DO THE RIGHT THING--in which Lee combines humor and drama to expose the absurdity of racism in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Other great films include MO' BETTER BLUES--about one man's devotion to his music, JUNGLE FEVER- in which Lee deals with the harsh realities of interracial relationships, CROOKLYN--a semiautobiographical look at a Brooklyn family in the 1970's and more recently CLOCKERS--about a dope dealer or 'clocker' who gets in over his head on a murder investigation.

This is a film with a full message for the heart and the mind.--Robert Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


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