The Criterion Channel is lifting its paywall to offer free streaming on classic and modern films from their extensive catalog that focus on Black lives. Those include Julie Dash's 1991 film Daughters of the Dust; Cheryl Dunye's 1996 film The Watermelon Woman; Kathleen Collins' 1982 feature Losing Ground; Horace Jenkins' 1982 film Cane River; Agnes Varda's 1968 documentary Black Panthers; Les Blank's 1971 documentary A Well Spent Life about Texas musician Mance Lipscomb; Maya Angelou's 1998 film Down in the Delta; Shirley Clarke’s 1967 documentary Portrait of Jason; and more. The films are all highlighted on The Criterion Channel's homepage and you can see the full list of free-to-watch titles below.

Meanwhile, The Criterion Collection has also support of Black Lives Matter, announcing 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." They also write "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." You can read their full note below.

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.

You can read The Criterion Channel's full letter below.

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CRITERION CHANNEL - BLACK LIVES TITLES (FREE TO STREAM)
The Watermelon Woman
My Brother's Wedding
Black Mother
Portrait of Jason
Suzanne, Suzanne
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm
Losing Ground
Scar of Shame
Black Panthers
A Well-Spent Life
Down in the Delta
Cane River
And When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead
Daughters of the Dust
Body and Soul

Dear Criterion community,

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.

Sincerely,
Peter Becker and Jonathan Turell