The Complicated Camera of Filmmaker Shirley Clarke | by Sarah Cowan

Criterion CollectionShirley Clarke as herself in Agnès Varda’s Lions Love (…and Lies), 1969

In this year of unprecedented upheaval, ongoing closures due to the pandemic had already forced many cultural organizations to leave behind the status quo when the Black Lives Matter protests began. Reckoning with systemic white supremacy, most have foregone persistent, structural change for a quicker, more visible counterpart: representation. Just over a week after George Floyd’s death, the Criterion Channel, the streaming service of the distributor Criterion Collection, released free of charge for a period (now over) a program of independent films called “Black Lives.”

Most of the films by Black directors in the online program are not actually part of the Criterion Collection catalogue, which is acutely dominated by works by white directors. Neither is Portrait of Jason, the only film on the list by a white, female filmmaker, Shirley Clarke, who was

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