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Black Lives Matter. Black Art Matters. So much of who I am as a person has been crafted by Black creatives and Black voices throughout my life. As a White man there’s no possible way I’ll ever be able to fully understand the Black experience. Through writing, music, film and culture, however, there’s always opportunities to share in that Black experience; to allow oneself to listen and learn and laugh and cry and realize that the Black experience is human experience. So many people find themselves rarely stepping out of their comfort zones whether that be within entertainment or conversation – but now more than ever is the perfect time to allow discomfort; to be inspired and enriched by voices and talents that live outside of the lanes one has grown accustomed to. 

Yesterday, the fine folks at The Criterion Collection released a statement detailing what they as a company are prepared to do going forward. They are honoring and lifting up Black and POC voices through current and ongoing donations to charities, a company wide commitment to education within their ranks, and a further commitment to celebrate and amplify Black voices. Another aspect of these initiatives was to provide some of the most important examples of Black Cinema available on their streaming service, The Criterion Channel, at no charge. 

It’s amazing that Criterion has taken down the paywall for several of the directors mentioned, but I noticed a bit of confusion as to which specific films were included. I wanted to help with a bit of the leg work and compile a list of all the feature films, chronicling nearly 100 years of Black created and inspired cinema. There’s such a beautiful mix of fictional narratives ( BODY AND SOUL, MY BROTHER’S WEDDING), engaging documentaries (BLACK PANTHERS, SHAKEDOWN) and cinema that finds itself somewhere in-between ( SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM TAKE ONE, THE WATERMELON WOMAN). It also includes the one and only film directed by the truly iconic Maya Angelou (DOWN IN THE DELTA). There’s such a wealth of truly remarkable cinema here. I urge everyone to take some time and take in as many as you can. 

The following is a comprehensive list of the films provided. You do not have to sign up for the free trial (although I do recommend it as you can take advantage of everything The Criterion Channel has to offer). If any more films are added we’ll make sure to update the listings we have provided (click on any of the thumbnails below to watch!). 

THE WATERMELON WOMAN – Directed by Cheryl Dunye, 1996

Watermelon Woman

MY BROTHER’S WEDDING – Directed by Charles Burnett, 1983

My Brother's Wedding

BLACK MOTHER – Directed by Khalik Allah, 2018

Black Mother

PORTRAIT OF JASON – Directed by Shirley Clarke, 1967

Portrait of Jason

SUZANNE, SUZANNE – DIrected by Camille Billops and James Hatch, 1982

Suzanne, Suzanne

SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM TAKE ONE – Directed by William Greaves, 1968 


LOSING GROUND – Directed by Kathleen Collins, 1982

Losing Ground

THE SCAR OF SHAME – Directed by Frank Perugini, 1929 

The Scar of Shame

BLACK PANTHERS – Directed by Agnes Varda, 1970

Black Panthers

SHAKEDOWN – Directed by Leilah Weinraub, 2018


A WELL-SPENT LIFE – Directed by Les Blank, 1971

Well-spent Life

DOWN IN THE DELTA – Directed by Maya Angelou, 1998

Down in the Delta

CANE RIVER – Directed by Horace Jenkins, 1982

Cane River

AND WHEN I DIE, I WON’T STAY DEAD – Directed by Billy Woodberry, 2015 

When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST – Directed by Julie Dash, 1991

Daughters of the Dust

BODY AND SOUL – Directed by Oscar Micheaux, 1925

Body and Soul