Criterion Channel, the streaming service managed by the Criterion Collection, has long focused on preserving and spreading important films both classic and contemporary. Now, the company has removed the paywall on a number of movies written, filmed, directed, and starring Black individuals and covering topics related to Black lives.
In an official Tweet, the company acknowledged the need to “build a better, more equitable, more diverse Criterion”. The current focus on Black cinema is just one element of a larger overall plan. Criterion also declared its intent to create “an employee-guided fund with a $25,000 initial contribution and an ongoing $5,000 monthly commitment to support organizations fighting racism in America”. Highlighted organizations included bail funds and advocacy groups fighting for police reform.
Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/aRwDVjuI0O
— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) June 4, 2020
The films currently available to stream for free include entries from throughout the history of Black cinema, ranging from early work by Oscar Micheaux and Zora Neale Hurston to Maya Angelou classics and the contemporary works of Khalik Allah and Leilah Weinraub. If you’re interested in viewing these films but not sure where to start, you can start by checking out the “Pioneers of African American Cinema” collection curated by Criterion. Another great jumping-off point is this tribute to director Cheryl Dunye, highlighting her feature film “The Watermelon Woman” along with several of her short film works.
A number of clips and interviews highlighting the featured film creators, including Khalik Allah, are also available to view via the Criterion Channel.
Criterion has dedicated its efforts to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and other Black individuals unjustly murdered by the violence of the American police.
In these difficult times, one thing we can all do is educate ourselves about the Black history and lives which have so often been ignored. Watching Criterion’s free films is a great way to get started.