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Sex, Lies, and an Unexpected Victory

Sex_liessex, lies, and videotape didn’t generate a lot of buzz coming into the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. Early word was that Steven Soderbergh’s feature debut was way too talky and way too long. Worse yet, despite the title, sex… didn’t have much sex in it at all. Of the sixteen films shown in the dramatic competition that year, Soderbergh’s chamber drama was the last one accepted. Which makes its subsequent ascent all the more remarkable. Excitement built quickly; the final screening inspired scalped tickets—a first for the festival; and the film won the coveted Audience Award. (Nancy Savoca’s True Love snagged the Grand Jury Prize.) In response, Miramax bought the distribution rights for $1 million following some very spirited bidding.

A few months later, Soderbergh’s one-time underdog went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes when Harvey Weinstein took a risk by screening it in the general competition instead of the indie-friendly Director’s Fortnight. Not long after, the film opened nationwide and raked in about $30 million. Today, sex, lies, and videotape can be seen to herald a new wave of independent film directors such as Todd Haynes, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino. Re-experience what all the fuss was about this morning at 11:30 a.m. or late tonight at 2 a.m. on AMC.

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