With the international attention placed on racial inequity and the upcoming Juneteenth celebration, may more film distributors have released films addressing systemic racism for free on streaming platforms. There was an initial surge of titles being made for free was primary inspired by the Criterion Channel’s decision to drop the paywall for a robust number of ground-breaking films.
The Criterion Channel is streaming the documentary And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead by Billy Woodbury, a key member of the LA Rebellion, a group of African and African American filmmakers who studied at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Other titles now available on the Criterion Channel for free through the end of June include Khalik Allah’s Black Mother, a spiritual journey through Jamaica; Oscar Michaeux’s Body and Soul, a silent film starring Paul Robeson in dual roles as a preaching and inventor; and the restoration of Horace Jenkins Cane River, a romantic film from 1982 made with an entirely African American cast and crew. Criterion also has other significant works of recent African American cinema including Charles Burnett’s My Brother’s Wedding, the sophomore feature by another member of the LA Rebellion group; William Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, a hybrid mix of documentary/fiction from 1968 about the creation of film in Central Park in New York; and Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman, a funny take on archives and the history of black film.
Lisson Gallery has also provided a free screening link to John Akomfrah’s 1986 film essay on race and protest Handsworth Songs. The film details the social unrest in the Handsworth district of Birmingham in September and October 1985 due to the economic and racial oppression in the UK. This film will only be available through Sunday, June 21 and also includes a link to a discussion with the director.
The adaptation on the best-selling novel, The Hate U Give, is now available for free across multiple platforms this month. The film follows a teenager who attends a mostly white college prep school who witnesses a fatal shooting of a friend at the hands of policeman leading to finding her way to become a leader in fighting for justice.
Zeitgeist Films has organized complimentary streaming access for Jason Osder’s documentary Let the Fire Burn, about he 1985 bombing of the headquarters of the Black liberation group MOVE and the subsequent deaths of eleven people and the gutting of 61 homes in the fires that ensued. This film will be available until the end of June.
Netflix has made Yance Ford’s Oscar-nominate documentary Strong Island available this month via their YouTube channel. The film shows the frustration and grief shared by the filmmaker in her fight for justice after the murder of her brother.
Tubi also provides access to several key films addressing racial injustice in inequity including The Trials of Darryl Hunt, a documentary about an African American man who spent nearly two decades in prison for a brutal rape and murder that he didn’t commit; The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, about the brutal lynching of a Black teenager in the 1950s that led to an international outcry for justice; and February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four, about the leaders from the North Carolina A&T State University who stated a sit-in at the segregated Woolworth lunch counter.