Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 7:30pm
Radical Sex Education Films: San Francisco's Multi-Media Resource Center
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Curated by Herb Shellenberger
In 1968, at the height of the Sexual Revolution, members of an ecumenical youth group in San Francisco founded the National Sex Forum, originally based at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Its mission was to educate the public on matters of human sexuality, using 16mm films as a central part of its ministry. To this end, the NSF worked under a variety of monikers and programs over the years, including the Sexual Attitude Restructuring series, the National Sex and Drug Forum, the Exodus Trust, Multi-Focus, Inc., and the Multi-Media Resource Center, which served as the distribution arm of the organization.
But films distributed by the Multi-Media Resource Center weren’t merely the clinical documentaries typically associated with sex education. Their catalog included many titles that took a much more radical approach to composition: psychedelic sex-trips, erotic cartoons, feminist counter-cinema. Works by experimental filmmakers like Scott Bartlett, James Broughton, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Michael Wallin were featured, as were numerous young artists and inventive amateurs.
“The NSF is producing an ever-growing number of films and videotapes in the areas of human sexuality used by over eight thousand colleges, universities, social service agencies, churches, and state and federal institutions,” Amos Vogel observed in 1982. “To the repressed (and therefore censorious), the NSF catalogue must appear as provocative (and, of course, a source of illicit pleasure). Its range is astonishing and explicit; the NSF filmmakers include well-known independents and even avant-garde artists.”
Tonight, curator Herb Shellenberger presents a selection of formally adventurous works originally distributed by the NSF during its Aquarian-Age years, such as Near the Big Chakra, Anne Severson’s seldom-screened classic of women’s cinema. “Rarely are experimental films ascribed any sort of utilitarian function,” Shellenberger has noted, “so the act of reassigning films that at best were only tangentially created with any type of sex education or therapy purpose was a move that required considerable creativity.”
Below are descriptions from the MMRC’s 1974 catalog, including notations for each title’s “suggested use.”
Eyetoon, Jerry Abrams, 1968, 16mm, 8 mins
Lovemaking is the theme of this unusual film. The rushing faces of New York and a highway juggernaut are contrasted with the peaceful joining of bodies in a Gjon Mili-like stroboscopic sequence, with a burning, flashing maelstrom of emotions underlying the bodies. Many other visual effects tickle the eye.
SUGGESTED USE: It is a good example of a man's fantasy.
Unfolding, Constance Beeson, 1969, 16mm, 17 mins
Through a series of dream-like episodes, UNFOLDING suggests universal awareness—aloneness, fantasies, searching, touching, loving. In the vague suggestion of a story, nature and sea mix with hints of legend, ritual, and poetry. UNFOLDING becomes one’s own folklore of imaginings. Double and triple exposure blend ocean, hills, sun, woman, and man, to portray subterranean feelings, ethereal feelings, the freeing of self, in loving and lovemaking, culminating in orgasm. While various persons take part in the film fantasy, two couples are focused on. One very young couple move through myth to find and enjoy one another. The other, a bearded man in his thirties and a young man, take viewers with them to pleasure and orgasm. Original music composition.
SUGGESTED USE: It is suitable both as a warm introductory film and as a fine closing statement. It was the first film commissioned by the National Sex Forum, and has been used with persons as young as high school age, in a variety of groups seeking to deal with feelings and values about sexuality. Its richness of imagery makes it useable alone, or in combination with other material.
The Now, Constance Beeson, 1972, 16mm, 16 mins
A single black girl moves through the film as in a dream of her past lives, when she was black and when she was white, when her lovers were white. The woman filmmaker describes THE NOW: "It is the liberation of the habit of labels that I seek in interracial understanding of our common flow of life, our common ties as people working out our destinations." The film shows interracial couples interacting and having sexual intercourse. Filmmatic effects lend a timelessness to the film.
SUGGESTED USE: The film is helpful for persons dealing with prejudice and its mythology, in education and therapy.
Desire Pie, Lisa Crafts, 1976, 16mm, 5 mins
A cartoon couple engaged in an amusing psychedelic sex romp are featured in this charming and excellent animated short. The images, the colors and the wiggly transformations translate a woman's fantasies into a delightful sexual "trip".
SUGGESTED USE: Show this pretty potpourri of a couple making animated love to relax and desensitize the group.
Near the Big Chakra, Alice Anne Parker (aka Anne Severson), 1972, 16mm, 17 mins
This film explores a portion of the infinite variability of the human body. In Hindu philosophy, chakra is an energy center. The vulva, female genitalia, is the big chakra. This is an unhurried view of thirty-eight women's genitals. The women ranged in age from six months to fifty-six years. There were two black women, one half oriental girl, two lesbians, one prostitute, two virgins, a lot of mothers, three pregnant women, three grandmothers, four women menstruating, one woman who discovered a week later she had gonorrhea, one who learned a month later that she had uterine cancer, and several with yeast infections. These facts are interesting in that most of them are not evident in the film. Many thoughts and events led to the creation of this film, primary of which was the realization that very seldom does anyone see a woman's vagina and clitoris, least of all a woman herself. The film is important in its documentary and unhurried look at the vulva. It has stirred controversy at many showings in the United States and Europe.
SUGGESTED USE: Excellent in sexual anatomy presentations, to show the range of variation and to instill a more positive attitude toward female genitalia.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.