Criterion makes some 'early pioneers of African American Cinema' available for free

Criterion Collection

Source: Screenshot (Image credit: Screenshot)

There absolutely is not enough diversity among the arts. And while pretty much anyone with a platform is going out of their way to make up for that fact the last week, it's also a simple truth that it's damned hard to give good cinema its due in the best of times.

To that end, The Criterion Channel — as part of its response to the "powerfully emotional time" that's involved yet another killing of an unarmed black person and a virtual nationwide protest — has made a series of films from African-American filmmakers free for anyone to watch.

No signups. No subscriptions. Just incredible filmmaking.

They explained their reasoning on Twitter .

This has been a powerfully emotional time. The disproportionate toll that COVDI-19 has take 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 he 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 also are 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 Michael; 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

To check out the free films, just hit the link below.

Watch it at The Criterion Channel