Herb Shellenberger

Radical Sex Education Films from San Francisco’s Multi-Media Resource Center
January 30, 2014
International House Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA, US

Part of "Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution"

The Multi-Media Resource Center (MMRC) was a radical organization based in San Francisco during the 1970s and 1980s. Founded under the Glide Methodist Church (an important organizing place for gay and lesbian activists), MMRC leaders and reverends Ted McIlvenna and Laird Sutton believed sexuality was their ministry, with a vital part of their mission done through the creation and distribution of films. But the films produced by the MMRC are not your typical sex education films. Produced with the aesthetics of the nascent New American Cinema, at times they look as if Jonas Mekas or Gregory Markopoulos went hardcore, with rushing handheld cinematography, double and triple exposures and soundtracks ranging from psychedelic folk to raga music.

In addition to producing films, the MMRC distributed a wide variety of films, including some legendary experimental films by filmmakers like Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, Scott Bartlett and James Broughton. These films were divorced from their context in avant garde cinema and placed into a greatly different context, that of sex therapy and education. Who knows how many times Jerry Abrams’ psychosexual, candy-colored cine-poem Eyetoon was screened for unsuspecting viewers in this context? Other films, like A Quickie and Love Toad were humorous, randy films meant to “lighten the mood” of an otherwise weighty screening session.

This collection of films is the first retrospective screening considering the radical sex education films that were offered through the Multi-Media Resource Center, an overlooked yet significant film distribution organization. This screening accompanies an article on the MMRC by Herb Shellenberger in the catalog Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution.

Special thanks to the University of Delaware Library Film and Video Collection for providing rare prints for this program.

A Quickie, Dirk Kortz, 1970, US, 16mm, 2'
Rich and Judy, Laird Sutton, 1970, US, 16mm, 12'
Riverbody, Alice Anne Parker, 1970, US, 16mm, 7'
Holding, Constance Beeson, 1971, US, 16mm, 13'
Love Toad, Greg Von Buchau, 1970, US, 1970, video, 2'
Fullness, Laird Sutton, 1974, US, 16mm, 13'
First Date, Mariko Tse, 1976, US, video, 5'
Eyetoon, Jerry Abrams, 1968, US, 16mm, 7'
Unfolding, Constance Beeson, 1969, US, 16mm, 16'
Orange, Karen Johnson, 1971, US, 16mm, 3'