The Criterion Collection is lifting its paywall on all its titles from Black filmmakers and documentaries about Black experience in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-racism protests happening across the world.
Films by pioneers of African American cinema, such as Oscar Micheaux, Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, Cheryl Dunye, and more are now available to all, regardless of being a Criterion Collection subscriber or not. Contemporary works by Khalik Allah and Leilah Weinraub, as well as documentaries on Black experience by white filmmakers Les Blank and Shirley Clarke, will also be available for free.
“We are 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,” a statement from the streaming platform said.
Highlights include Weinraub’s 2018 documentary, Shakedown, about a Black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles; Angelou’s Down in the Delta, the writer and activist’s sole feature length film, about a drug-addled woman whose mother sends her and her children to a small Mississippi town; and Dunye’s 1996 debut, Watermelon Woman, about a twenty-something lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a 1930s Black film actress.
Additionally, president Peter Becker and CEO Jonathan Turel have announced that Criterion Collection will be making a $25,000 USD initial contribution with a monthly commitment of $5,000 USD to organisations fighting racism in America.
Books, films, and articles charting race relations and their wider history are a vital tool to inform activists and allies today, and inspire visions for an alternative system. Make sure you check out our ongoing list of resources to help stay educated and informed.
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