Empathy is the most important feeling. And what better way to learn than through the most powerful empathy vehicle ever created?
It seems to me that the world, America especially, is lacking a ton of empathy right now. I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and while I had a more diverse world than some, it was first through film and television that I saw cultures different than my own.
Roger Ebert once called movies "the greatest empathy machine." He went on to say, "The great movies enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people."
I truly believe those words. And so does the Criterion Channel. In a statement released yesterday, the channel has decided to lift the paywall on films by black creators in order to elevate their work and, hopefully, help foster change within the world.
"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."
The statement continued "Today we are establishing an employee-guided fund with a $25,000 initial contribution and an ongoing $5,000 monthly commitment to support organizations fighting racism in America, including bail funds, community organizations, legal defense funds, and advocacy groups that address police reform."
With a final offer, "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. 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."
This is the definition of putting your money where your mouth is in the age of vague corporate statements.
I'm excited to revisit some of these classics and encourage you all to do the same.