Freaky Tales officially kicked off the 2024 Sundance Film Festival with Pedro Pascal as a soon-to-be-retired fixer and Jay Ellis as NBA All-Star and former Golden State Warrior Sleepy Floyd.
The Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck-directed film received the prime 7 p.m. slot at the Eccles Theater, with the audience giving it a warm welcome. The filmmakers, whose recent credits include Captain Marvel and Masters of the Air, were welcomed back to the festival, where their feature debut Half Nelson screened in 2006 and Mississippi Grind screened in 2015.
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“The last time I was here with Mississippi Grind I had to lie to get on an airplane about how pregnant I was. I was so pregnant, and I had to pretend I was less pregnant than I was. And now the person I was pregnant with is here tonight, and she is 8 years old ,” said Boden ahead of the screening to audience applause. “Thank you, Sundance, for bringing us back here.”
Freaky Tales, which takes place in 1987 Oakland, is a mashup of genres, from sci-fi to classic kung fu films, and is told through four interweaving chapters. Among the large ensemble cast is Ben Mendelsohn, who has worked with the directors on two other films, singer Normani, Dominique Thorne and Jack Champion. The film also features one of the final performances from Angus Cloud, the Euphoria actor who died last year at the age of 25.
“It’s at once a love letter to Oakland’s spirit and to those who fight injustice,” said Sundance programmer Kim Yutani.
The film is filled with show-stopping sequences, from a punks versus Nazis brawl to Ellis’ Floyd murdering a house full of said Nazis using various swords. Despite all the genre-bending, A-list talent, and copious amounts of blood, it was the minutes-long cameo from an Oscar-winning Bay Area actor that received the biggest applause.
“This is one I just needed to see,” said Fleck in the post-screening Q&A of the reason behind making the movie. “No one else was going to make this movie. I just needed to make it to see it.”
In addition to Pascal, Normani (“This is my very first film,” she pointed out to massive applause) and others from the cast, in attendance Thursday night was the real Sleepy Floyd (who makes an appearance in the film) and Oakland rapper Too Short whose song “Freaky Tales” is the inspiration for the film’s title and also acts as the movie’s narrator.
Macro and eOne are behind Freaky Tales, which is being sold out of the festival.
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