Put Solange in the Criterion Collection? Oh Wait, They Just Did

Solange performs on stage.
Rick Kern / WireImages via Getty

Being inducted into the Criterion Collection’s archive is a filmmaker’s dream—the collection, which Criterion itself describes as consisting of “important classic and contemporary films,” is home to some of the rarest and most revered works of filmic art. And today, Criterion is giving nods to an art piece that deserves to hold a place in the collection: a special director’s cut of Solange’s When I Get Home, which has now been added to Criterion's streaming service the Criterion Channel.

The film, which was released alongside an album by the same name, came out in 2019—to celebrate its two-year anniversary, Criterion is bringing When I Get Home into the folds of its thousand-plus movie lineup. Like other films available on the Criterion app, there will be a range of visual offerings to go along with When I Get Home: digital activations will take place on the artist’s Blackplanet page throughout this week, with special screenings of various performances and art installations that have taken place since When I Get Home’s release. Plus, there will be a digital quilt personally collaged by Solange on display, featuring images and stories submitted by fans about the album’s impact on their lives.

Saying the experimental album made waves upon its release feels like somewhat of an understatement. Against a sonic landscape mixing jazz, hip-hop, R&B, trap, soul, and chopped and screwed elements, Solange created a whole new sound on a concept album that referenced culturally relevant themes while simultaneously looking inward, tapping her own life and experiences for material. It seems only right that such a world has a stunning visual component to go along with it. And indeed, the film uses imagery from Solange’s hometown of Houston, with surrealist shots that highlight Black cowboys, outer space, futurism, and religious and spiritual iconography.

Adding Solange’s director’s cut of When I Get Home could be part of Criterion’s push to diversify its offerings. In August 2020, the New York Times published a report stating that, of the Collection’s 1,034 films, only nine had Black directors, and only four were by Black American directors. “There’s nothing I can say about it that will make it OK. The fact that things are missing, and specifically that Black voices are missing, is harmful, and that’s clear. We have to fix that,” Criterion president Peter Becker said at the time.