Bus Riders Union

Haskell Wexler is one of Hollywood's premier cinematographers (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bound for Glory), but he's also a radical film director whose independent feature Medium Cool (1969), shot with his actors thrust among Mayor Daley's rioting Chicago police, remains an essential document of the 60s. Fortunately he's never cooled, and now he's back with this rousing agitprop documentary, which he directed and photographed on video. It traces the heroic four-year struggle in LA to make the Metropolitan Transit Authority respond to the needs of the city's “public transportation dependent”—the overwhelmingly poor and minority people who ride the buses. Or try to ride the buses—if they don't break down, if they ever come, if they aren't overcrowded. Organizers from the multicultural Bus Riders Union leaflet LA buses and march on MTA meetings with their demands: lower fares, nighttime buses, seats for everyone. They also want to force the city to stop transferring the bulk of the bus system's funding to the spiffy new rail system for suburban commuters, who are overwhelmingly white and wealthy. Is there a management side to the story? Not when it's being told by the unapologetically power-to-the-people Wexler. 86 min.

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