This past Thursday the Criterion Channel announced that it will be lifting the paywall on their streaming service to stream Black films. That is films that have captured the Black experience in both documentary and narrative forms. Audiences can now stream these films at home for free.
Films in the collection include Julie Dash’s DAUGHTER’S OF THE DUST (1991) the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive wide theatrical release. Maya Angelou’s DOWN IN THE DELTA (1998) in her film debut of a single mother haunted by drugs and alcohol. Shirley Clarke’s PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967) a tragic documentary feature following a homosexual black hustler and aspiring Cabaret star. Agnès Varda’s BLACK PANTHERS (1968) a short documentary filmed during the protests over Huey P. Newton’s arrest for John Frey’s murder in 1967. Oscar Micheaux’s BODY AND SOUL (1925) film pioneer Micheaux’s pointed social commentary— a story of the abuse of faith that can lead to tragedy. As well as Kathleen Collins’ LOSING GROUND (1982) the semi-autobiographical look at a marriage in peril, and many more.
The decision comes on the heels of many companies in the film and television industry collectively stepping up to combat systematic racism. Other companies include A24, Comedy Central, MTV and Bad Robot. Criterion also announced they will be donating $25,000 and an additional ongoing $5,000 a month to anti-racism organizations. It’s not yet stated which organizations those are.