Criterion Collection Makes Films by Black Cinema Pioneers Free to Watch
The free collection includes films by Maya Angelou, William Greaves, Kathleen Collins, Cheryl Dunye, Khalik Allah, and more.
Criterion Collection has removed the paywall on a selection of films from black cinema pioneers.
The announcement arrived in a statement of solidarity from the channel, pledging to support black advocacy groups, community organizations, and bail funds associated with the global protests against police brutality sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The collection features Maya Angelou's Down in The Delta, Julie Dash's Daughters of The Dust, Cheryl Dunye's Watermelon Woman, Khalik Allah's Black Mother, and more. All of which are available to watch for free without a subscription.
In addition to the paywall lift, Criterion has committed an initial $25,000 donation to the aforementioned organizations, promising a follow-up of $5,000 per month to support Black Lives Matter. The channel joins Apple, Amazon, Warner Bros., in an industry-wide pledge to highlight the work of visionary black filmmakers and creators.
Read Criterion Collection's full statement below. Head over to their site for the full list of free films being offered.
"This has been a powerfully emotional time. The disproportionate toll that COVID-19 has taken on communities of color; the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade; and the casually lethal racism of the Central Park dog walker who called the cops on bird-watcher Christian Cooper have once again thrown into sharp focus the inescapable reality of systemic racism in our society and the many kinds of violence it inflicts on black Americans every day.
Black Lives Matter. The anguish and fury unleashed all across the country are rooted in centuries of dehumanization and death. This pattern must stop. We support the protesters who have taken to the streets to demand justice, and we share their hopes. We are committed to fighting systemic racism.
We’ve met as a company and a community to talk openly about the work we need to do to build a better, more equitable, more diverse Criterion, beginning with education and training for our ownership and our staff. We are also committed to examining the role we play in the idea of canon formation, whose voices get elevated, and who gets to decide what stories get told.
Today we are establishing an employee-guided fund with a $25,000 initial contribution and an ongoing $5,000 monthly commitment to support organizations fighting racism in America, including bail funds, community organizations, legal defense funds, and advocacy groups that address police reform. If you follow us on Twitter or Instagram, we’ll keep you informed of the organizations we’re supporting.
We are also using our streaming platform, the Criterion Channel, to highlight films that focus on Black Lives, including works by early pioneers of African American Cinema such as Oscar Micheaux; classics by Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, William Greaves, Kathleen Collins, Cheryl Dunye, and Charles Burnett; contemporary work by Khalik Allah and Leilah Weinraub; and documentary portraits of black experience by white filmmakers Les Blank and Shirley Clarke. We’ve taken down the paywall on as many of these titles as we can, so even if you aren’t a subscriber you can watch them for free.
We are grateful for your continued support and hope that you will join us in speaking out and making a meaningful commitment to battling systemic racism in our country."