sex, lies, and videotape

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenwriters: Steven Soderbergh

Institute History


Twenty years ago, Steven Soderbergh arrived at the Sundance/United States Film Festival carrying the print of sex, lies, and videotape; he left with the dramatic Audience Award. The film went on to win the Palme d' Or and the best actor award for James Spader at Cannes and became one of most popular and critically acclaimed independent films. Suddenly, for good or bad, Sundance was on everyone's radar.

Sex, lies charts the complex interrelationship linking four characters in a southern town: Ann (Andie MacDowell); her husband, John (Peter Gallagher); her sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), who is having an affair with John; and John's old college friend Graham (Spader), who drifts into their lives and, through his videotapes, changes the way they see themselves and relate to each other.

What makes the film unique is the counterpointing between the images and the soundtrack, enabling you to follow two strands of the story simultaneously and see their connection. In the film's opening scene, for example, we hear Ann telling her analyst about her poor sexual relationship with John while we watch John and Cynthia making torrid love.

Some films run dry over time, but sex, lies keeps getting richer. With each viewing, new subtleties emerge. All the performances are impressive, but Spader is mesmerizing. His Graham is disarmingly direct yet maddeningly elusive; at one point, he tells Ann, "I don't have the slightest idea who I am." Neither do we, but that just increases our fascination.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]