Michael Buscemi's Tribeca Film Fest flick pays rueful homage to Brooklyn's B61 bus

In the Press

Michael Buscemi's Tribeca Film Fest flick pays rueful homage to Brooklyn's B61 bus

Lore Croghan
New York Daily News
04/18/2012

It’s a hated Brooklyn bus line - and now it’s a movie.

Actor Michael Buscemi has written and directed a wry little love note to the slow-poke B61 bus, with a Red Hook stop serving as the sole setting for “B61,” which premieres Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival.

In his 14-minute film, long waits for the no-show bus give Vincent, the depressed middle-aged character Buscemi plays, time to make friends with a neighbor, Sal, played by actor Francesco Saviano.

“When you’re waiting for a bus or train, you have the opportunity to meet someone,” said Buscemi, who lives in the nabe and regularly rides the B61.

“The whole dynamic is so interesting.”

Vincent is as exasperated by the B61 — one of the city’s slowest, most crowded buses — as real-life riders.

At the beginning of the movie, he sneers at the schedule posted at his stop because the bus doesn’t come when it’s supposed to. When it finally shows up in the last scene, Vincent says, “There’s a first.”

Real-life B61 riders said Buscemi’s film nails their daily commuting experience.

“If you don’t know the B61, you don’t know the pain of waiting,” said Ellie Gutierrez, a Columbia St. resident who commutes on the much-despised line.

“You feel like you hit the Lotto when the bus comes and you can get home in time for dinner.”

Her sister-in-law Carmen, who also lives in Red Hook, sometimes sees stressed-out passengers push and shove each other on the overcrowded bus — when she’s lucky enough to get on one.

“Sometimes I wait an hour and a half,” she said. “I see it drive by — or the driver stops and doesn’t let anyone on because there’s no space.”

A scathing study released in December by City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) found only 43% of rush-hour B61s are close to being on time. The line runs from downtown Brooklyn along the Columbia St. waterfront to Red Hook, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.

Buscemi, whose brother Steve stars in the HBO hit “Boardwalk Empire” and also lives in Brooklyn, offers clues in his film that its cobble-stoned location is Red Hook.

Vincent talks about a nearby bus stop on Van Brunt, a Red Hook street. A delivery van that appears prominently in some scenes is marked with the name and address of neighborhood baker, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Noise from tourist helicopters that annoy residents with frequent flyovers is included in the sound effects.

Buscemi filmed “B61” last spring at a fake bus stop they set up near the end of Van Dyke St. by Valentino Park. A permit to film at a real neighborhood bus stop was too pricey; it would have involved closing the street to traffic.

Buscemi, who plays a character on Showtime’s TV series “Nurse Jackie” who thinks he’s God when he’s off his meds, is writing a feature-length film script about his “B61” character.

His short film’s premiere will be his first-ever appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival. See www.tribecafilm.com for a list of screening dates.

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