The Criterion Collection, a streaming platform which specialises in “important classic and contemporary films”, has made a range of titles about Black lives available for free.

These titles include classic films by Black female directors such as Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, a highly acclaimed and visually stunning 1991 film which has been hailed as an influence on Beyoncé’s Lemonade project. It made history by becoming the first film by a Black female director to go on general release in the US.

Other must-see films now streaming for free include Down in the Delta, a 1998 family drama directed by the great Maya Angelou, and Cheryl Dunye’s landmark 1996 directorial debut The Watermelon Woman, which explores the history of Black queer women in the movies.

Most, though not all, of the films now streaming for free are directed by Black filmmakers. Others, such as Agnès Varda’s 1968 short documentary Black Panthers, are films by white directors documenting the Black experience.

The Criterion Collection’s decision to make 16 films about Black lives available for free reflects the fact that educating yourself about the Black experience is one way of making sure you support Black people today, tomorrow and forever.

In a statement, the Criterion Collection pledged its support to Black Lives Matter activists who have taken to the streets in recent weeks and outlined its commitment to improving diversity within its own organisation.

“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,” it said.

“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.”

You can watch all of these great films for free over on The Criterion Collection now.

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