Get on the Bus
|Get on the Bus|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Reuben Cannon
|Written by||Reggie Rock Bythewood|
Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Harry J. Lennix
Roger Guenveur Smith
Charles S. Dutton
|Music by||Terence Blanchard|
|Edited by||Leander T. Sales|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Get on the Bus is a 1996 film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee and premiered on the one-year anniversary of the march. For Spike Lee, this was the first time that he did not act in one of his own films.
Fifteen disparate African American men board a bus in Los Angeles bound for Washington, D.C., where they plan on attending the Million Man March. Other than their race, destination, and gender, the men have nothing in common: Xavier is an aspiring filmmaker hoping to make a documentary of the March; Flip is an openly racist and sexist actor; Kyle and Randall are a homosexual couple; Gary, a police officer, is the sole biracial man on the bus; Jamal is a former gang banger turned devout Muslim who has evaded prosecution for the rapes and murders he committed; Evan Jr., is a petty criminal who has been permitted to break probation to attend the march on the condition that he remain handcuffed to his father, Evan Sr.
As the bus travels across country, Xavier conducts interviews with the various attendees, allowing them to express their views on race, religion, and politics. The interviews often provoke outbursts from other men on the bus, invariably leading to confrontations; the only topic of unity is the O.J. Simpson trial, with the men agreeing that, while Simpson is probably guilty, his acquittal is justified as his victims were a white woman and a Jew. Peace is kept through the various arguments and physical altercations that occur by Jeremiah, the eldest member of the group. A former alcoholic who lost his job and family, Jeremiah has found new meaning in life by embracing his African heritage; his philosophies on the black experience and stories of precolonial Africa serve to unite the men and ease tensions.
En route the bus breaks down and the men are forced to board another bus, driven by an ethnically Jewish man named Rick. Several of the passengers harass Rick with antisemitic remarks and jokes; Rick ultimately refuses to drive any further, citing the group's prejudice and his opposition to antisemitic remarks made by the leader of the march, Louis Farrakhan. George, himself a bus driver, accuses Rick of racism, but begrudgingly agrees to let Rick resign without incident. George takes over driving for the remainder of the trip, with help from Evan Sr.
As the bus passes through the American south, the men are surprised to find that they are greeted hospitably by several white southerners at various restaurants and rest stops. At one stop, the men pick up Wendell, a wealthy African American Lexus salesman who sees attending the march as a way to make business connections. After Wendell makes disparaging remarks about lower-class African Americans, the rest of the men forcibly eject him from the bus and abandon him on the side of the road.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, the bus is pulled over by a pair of racist state troopers, who accuse the men of using the bus to smuggle drugs. The bus and its passengers are searched, turning up no evidence of drugs; the troopers reluctantly allow the bus to progress.
As the bus nears Washington, Jeremiah passes out and is rushed to a hospital. The doctors there discover that Jeremiah is suffering from advanced coronary artery disease, which made the stress of the trip potentially deadly for him. Evan Sr. and Jr., Gary, Jamal, and Xavier opt to stay with Jeremiah at the hospital and watch the march on television while the rest of the men leave in the bus to attend. Shortly after they leave, Jeremiah dies. The rest of the group returns to the hospital, saying that, to stay true to the spirit of the March, they chose not to attend but to return and be with Jeremiah.
As the bus prepares to return to Los Angeles, the men find a prayer that Jeremiah wrote in honor of the March. The men drive to the Lincoln Memorial, where George leads the men in Jeremiah's prayer and Evan Jr. and Sr. remove their handcuffs.
- George (Charles S. Dutton) – the bus driver and trip organizer.
- Jeremiah aka "Pop" (Ossie Davis) – a downsized senior citizen who is an expert on African-American history.
- Evan & Evan Jr. aka "Smooth" (Thomas Jefferson Byrd and De'Aundre Bonds) – an estranged father and son who are court ordered to be shackled together for 72 hours after Junior's arrest for petty theft.
- Kyle & Randall (Isaiah Washington and Harry J. Lennix) – a gay couple in the midst of breaking up.
- Flip (Andre Braugher) – a narcissistic actor.
- Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith) – a police officer who is half black and half white.
- Xavier aka "X" (Hill Harper) – a UCLA Film School student who is making a documentary.
- Jamal (Gabriel Casseus) – a former gangster turned Muslim seeking redemption.
- Jay (Bernie Mac) – a bubble gum company owner.
- Mike (Steve White) – a conspiracy theorist who thinks the march is a plot to gather one million black men in one place for mass extermination.
- Craig (Albert Hall) – the original bus driver who is dealing with his teenage daughter's pregnancy.
Three additional bus passengers are shown observing the action. They are credited but are not introduced nor are they given dialogue:
- Jadi McCurdy as Ja-Dee, a young man with dreadlocks.
- Hosea Brown III as Doc. Brown is a real-life M.D. who served as the set doctor during filming.
- Guy Margo as Khalid, a member of the Nation of Islam.
- Richard Belzer as Rick
- Wendell Pierce as Wendell Perry
- Kristen Wilson as Shelly Maxwell
- Paula Jai Parker as Jamilia
- Gina Ravera as Gina
- Joie Lee as Jindal
- Randy Quaid as Tennessee State Trooper (uncredited)
The soundtrack to the film, "Get On The Bus: music from and inspired by the motion picture", which was available on 40 Acres and a Mule Musicworks and Interscope Records, only had one charting single, which had a music video with clips from the film: "New World Order" by Curtis Mayfield.
1. "Shabooyah (Roll Call)"-The Bus Crew: Mike (Steve White), Evan, Jr. a.k.a. "Smooth" and Evan (De'Aundre Bonds and Thomas Jefferson Byrd), Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith), Xavier (Hill Harper), Jamal (Gabriel Casseus), and Jeremiah a.k.a. "Pop" (Ossie Davis)
3. "Tonite's The Nite"-Doug E. Fresh
5. "Girl You Need A Change Of Mind"-D'Angelo
6. "Redemption Song"-Stevie Wonder
7. "New World Order"-Curtis Mayfield
8. "Over A Milion Strong"-The Neville Brothers
10. "I Love My Woman"-Marvin Davis
11. "Cruisin'"-Earth, Wind, & Fire
12. "Welcome"-Marc Dorsey
13. "Coming Home To You"-BLACKstreet
14. "Ayinde's Speech"-Ayinde Jean-Baptiste
The film received generally positive reviews. On the website Rotten Tomatoes the film scored an 87% fresh on the tomatometer. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a perfect four star rating, stating "What makes Get on the Bus extraordinary is the truth and feeling that go into its episodes". The film was entered into the 47th Berlin International Film Festival where it won an Honourable Mention.