The Route to Identity: Italian Translation and African American Language(s) in Spike Lee's Get on the Bus


  • Dora Renna University of Verona



cinema, audiovisual translation, spike lee


This paper investigates translation issues emerging from the analysis of Spike Lee’s movie Get on the Bus (1996) and its Italian adaptation, Bus in Viaggio. The choice is motivated by African American Vernacular English (AAVE), used in the film by a group of men that get on the bus to reach the Million Man March in Washington (1995). During the journey, characters will confront each other on different topics, such as African American male identity in that precise moment and for the future, as well as their role within the black community. As in other movies by Spike Lee, the traditional and stereotyped media portrayal of African American people is challenged and subverted. This dialogical construction poses a set of challenges for the translator/adaptor, especially because it is characterised by a use of language that has no equivalent in Italian. (Un)translatability is the main focus of this research: can idiomatic expressions that are typical of a non-standard variety of English be translated? Which translation strategies have been used? These questions will be analysed through a reading of the speech patterns enacted by one of the characters, the wannabe Hollywood star Flip, a stereotyped portrait against whom each character will fight in order to affirm his identity.


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