Arielle Tschinkel
June 05, 2020 7:22 am
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Miramax, Courtesy of Everett Collection

Among the many racial injustices being highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement is the lack of equal representation for Black stories in entertainment. In an effort to fight systemic racism as it exists in the entertainment industry, the Criterion Collection is streaming select titles from Black filmmakers for free, along with committing to ongoing support for organizations fighting racism in America.

The Criterion Collection will be lifting the paywall on a slew of titles by Black filmmakers, so you can access the movies for free, without a subscription. In a statement posted to Instagram, Criterion explained its reasoning behind the move.

“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,” the company wrote. “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.”

The list of movies now available for free on Criterion’s streaming platform is chock full of incredible options from pioneers in Black cinema, including Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, Shirley Clarke, and many more.

You can watch for free Angelou’s 1998 directorial debut, Down in the Delta, about a family grappling with substance abuse. Clarke’s 1967 documentary Portrait of Jason tells the story of Jason Holliday, an aspiring Black gay cabaret performer. Frank Perugini’s 1929 film The Scar of Shame—one of the first feature films with an all-Black cast that was specifically made for Black viewers—tells the story of a young woman living with an abusive, alcoholic father.

Check out the full curated list of free titles on the Criterion Channel homepage.

Along with aiming to reach a wider audience through Black stories, Criterion is giving an initial $25,000 donation—followed by a $5,000 monthly donation—to “support organizations fighting racism in America, including bail funds, community organizations, legal defense funds, and advocacy groups that address police reform,” as noted in their Instagram statement.

You can keep up with Criterion Collection’s ongoing efforts on social media, along with checking out the titles they’ve made available. Our weekend watching list just got so much better.