films by black voices

In the wake of nationwide protests against police violence against Black lives, The Criterion Channel is making a series of films about and by Black voices available for free. Films from Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, William Greaves, Kathleen Collins, Cheryl Dunye, Charles Burnett, and more, are available in front of the paywall for the streaming service. Criterion is also “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.”

Today, the Criterion Channel sent out the following announcement:

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.

Films available include:

  • And When I Die I Won’t Stay Dead directed by Billy Woodberry
  • Black Mother directed by Khalik Allah 
  • Black Panthers directed by Agnes Varda
  • Body and Soul directed by Oscar Micheaux
  • Cane River directed by Horace Jenkins 
  • Daughters of the Dust directed by Julie Dash
  • Down in the Delta directed by Maya Angelou
  • Losing Ground directed by Kathleen Collins 
  • My Brother’s Wedding directed by Charles Burnett
  • Portrait of Jason directed by Shirley Clarke
  • The Scar of Shame directed by Frank Perugini
  • Shakedown directed by Leilah Weintraub 
  • Suzanne, Suzanne directed by Camille Billops and James Hatch
  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One directed by William Graves 
  • The Watermelon Woman directed by Cheryl Dune
  • A Well-Spent Life directed by Les Blank 
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