The Criterion Channel Is Making Seminal Films by Black Filmmakers Free to Stream

Alva Rogers, Barbara-O, and Trula Hoosier in Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991).
Alva Rogers, Barbara-O, and Trula Hoosier in Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991). / Cohen Media Group

To celebrate Black filmmakers and help educate viewers about the Black experience in America, the Criterion Collection is making a number of films by Black filmmakers—and documentaries by white filmmakers that focus on Black history—free to stream on the Criterion Channel.

As IndieWire reports, the selection includes: Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground (1982), one of the first feature films directed by a Black woman; Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996), the first feature film directed by a Black lesbian; Maya Angelou’s directorial debut Down in the Delta (1998); Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters in the Dust, about a multigenerational family in the Gullah community in the early 20th century; Agnès Varda’s 1968 documentary Black Panthers; and many more.

In addition to giving non-subscribers access to important films that are already in the collection, Criterion is taking a closer look at which works earn a spot in that highly elite collection in the first place.

“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,” Criterion president Peter Becker and CEO Jonathan Turell said in a statement. “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 company has also announced the creation of an ongoing fund “to support organizations fighting racism in America, including bail funds, community organizations, legal defense funds, and advocacy groups that address police reform.” Their initial pledge is $25,000, with an additional $5000 per month going forward, and they plan to share details about which organizations they’re donating to on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

You can browse the full offering of free films here.

[h/t IndieWire]