By Maureen Lee Lenker
June 04, 2020 at 04:32 PM EDT
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The Criterion Channel is offering audiences another artistic resource for free as part of "making a meaningful commitment to battling systemic racism in our country."

On Thursday, Criterion released a statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, announcing an employee-guided fund with a $25,000 initial contribution and an ongoing $5,000 monthly contribution to support organizations fighting racism in America. They also announced plans to make films focused on black life on their streaming platform free to viewers.

Everett Collection

"We are also 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 Micheaux; 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," the statement read. "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."

The full list of films (and their supplements) that will be available to audiences is:

The Watermelon Woman

My Brother's Wedding

Black Mother

Portrait of Jason

Suzanne, Suzanne

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm

Losing Ground

Scar of Shame

Black Panthers

A Well-Spent Life

Down in the Delta

Cane River

And When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead

Daughters of the Dust

Body and Soul

From pioneering filmmakers in the early days of cinema to documentaries to contemporary artists, the titles on offer give audiences a chance to delve into a broad range of black experiences as depicted on screen. Criterion is also offering any supplemental materials that come with these titles, which includes introductions and interviews that lend the film's cultural context, alongside them for free.

"Black Lives Matter. The anguish and fury unleashed all across the 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," their statement explained. "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."

Since the country has erupted in protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, many have turned to resources like books and films to recommend as a way to both lift up black voices and educate ourselves about the practice of anti-racism. Warner Bros. is currently offering their film about a wrongful conviction case Just Mercy to rent for free. Criterion joins them in offering an even wider array of options free of charge.

To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
  • Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
  • Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.

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