In response to current events, the Criterion Channel streaming service is making some of its films from pioneering Black filmmakers and those documenting Black culture free to stream. While an explicit list of free films hasn't been published, several titles including Maya Angelou's "Down in the Delta," Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust," Agnès Varda's "Black Panthers," and Kathleen Collins's "Losing Ground" are all free to stream right now, in addition to other films and documentaries discussing the Black experience.
If you aren't familiar with the Criterion Channel, it's a streaming service that accompanies or compliments the Criterion Collection, which distributes "important classic and contemporary cinema from around the world." That includes plenty of older, bigger-name titles, but also a lot of lesser-known influential and independent cinema. If you're tired of endless action movies, have an interest in art-house cinema, or simply suffer a minor obsession with 40s-era film noir (yo), a Criterion Channel subscription is a must-have.
Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/aRwDVjuI0O
— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) June 4, 2020
With this, Criterion joins Google, who made the recent biopic "Just Mercy" free to stream from the Play Store this month.
This list is non-exhaustive, but here are a few titles we've dug up as free as part of today's change:
- Agnès Varda's "Black Panthers"
- Khalik Allah's "Black Mother"
- Oscar Micheaux's "Body and Soul"
- Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust"
- Maya Angelou's "Down in the Delta"
- Kathleen Collins's "Losing Ground"
- Shirley Clarke's "Portrait of Jason"
- Frank Perugini's "The Scar of Shame"
- Cheryl Dunye's "The Watermelon Woman"
Beyond the limited number of titles, there's also one more potential catch: the Criterion Channel seems to be having issues with some platforms right now. We can't stream any titles (currently free or otherwise) via Chrome on desktop with a DRM-related error. However, it should work on other platforms, including the Criterion Channel Android app.
In addition to opening up access to films and documentaries that better highlight Black experiences, the Criterion Collection is also establishing an employee-guided fund to help support organizations that fight racism and spur police reform, as part of its own internal examination for the role it plays.