'Selma,' 'Just Mercy' and More Made Free to Rent in Wake of Nationwide Protests

Selma Still - H 2014
Atsushi Nishijima

Selma Still - H 2014

Films and series tackling racial issues, such as 'Selma,' 'The Hate U Give' 'Just Mercy' and 'East of La Brea', have been made available at no cost for those looking to educate themselves in the wake of George Floyd's death.

As protests continue worldwide over police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck, studios are making some of their films tackling racial issues available to stream for free. 

Paramount Pictures has made Ava DuVernay's Selma free to rent on all digital platforms through the month of June to encourage audiences to "reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society." 

"We hope this small gesture will encourage people throughout the country to examine our nation’s history and reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society. The key message of Selma is the importance of equality, dignity and justice for all people. Clearly, that message is as vital today as it was in 1965," read the announcement from Paramount. 

DuVernay also announced the free rental program on her Twitter account, writing, "We’ve gotta understand where we’ve been to strategize where we’re going. History helps us create the blueprint."

Selma was nominated for best picture at the 87th annual Academy Awards, and depicts the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, as a part of the campaign to secure equal voting rights. David Oyelowo played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Carmen Ejogo, Tessa Thompson and Andre Holland also starring.  

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. made wrongful conviction drama Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, free to rent for this month, while Netflix has made DuVernay's Oscar-nominated doc The 13th, which takes a look at the country's prison industrial complex, free for viewing on the streamer's YouTube channel. 

On June 4, The Criterion Channel announced that it would be taking down the pay wall in front of many films from black filmmakers, including work from Maya Angelou, Julie Dash and William Greaves, among others. "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."

On June 8, director George Tillman Jr. announced that his 2018 movie The Hate U Give would also be available to rent for free on digital platforms. The Fox 2000 title was an adaptation of the YA book of the same name about a high schooler that chooses to speak up after she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a police officer. Wrote Tillman on Twitter, "Our story is a reminder to never be afraid to raise our voice in the name of justice. We must stand up for what we believe."

Paul Feig's Powderkeg announced the release all episodes of Sameer Gardezi's series East of La Brea, which that tracks the untold stories of Los Angeles through the lives of two very different Muslim women from working class backgrounds. The series is currently debuting on IGTV. 

"Waiting for gatekeepers who don’t identify with these diverse stories to open the doors for distribution began to feel like we were part of the problem, not the solution. We feel we owe it to this amazing cast and crew and the community to share their stories," said Feig and producing partner Laura Fischer.


June 10, 12:40 p.m. Updated with the Hate U Give streaming announcement.