Sundance 2024, Day 1: ‘Freaky Tales,’ stars descend upon Park City

The first day of the 40th installment of the annual Sundance Film Festival drew big crowds to snowy Park City, Utah.

Sundance season is officially here: The beloved annual film festival has returned for its 40th installment, bringing together audiences from around the world and some of the brightest stars in Hollywood to Park City, Utah, to celebrate independent cinema.

For 2024, theGrio has once again returned to the days-long festival, and we’re breaking down our favorite early moments.

An evening view of the Egyptian Theatre marquee is shown during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Sundance Scoop

On Thursday morning, TheGrio attended Sundance Scoop, a kick-off event held at the Festival’s Filmmaker’s Lodge on Main Street in Park City. Moderated by Jason Blum, CEO and founder of Blumhouse, the Sundance team broke down their excitement and intentions surrounding this year’s gathering.

When asked about the program’s intentions surrounding diversity and inclusion, Eugene Hernandez, director of the Sundance Film Festival and head of public programming, spoke to the way the fest has always been about underrepresented stories, yet has “evolved, grown and diversified” alongside the industry.

Recommended Stories

“I think that’s been reflected so beautifully in this festival and in the work the Institute has been doing for decades, ” said Hernandez. “Not only to showcase and support stories from so many different vantage points, viewpoints and parts of the world, but also it’s just been beautiful to see the audience here in the festival, our audiences in Salt Lake — walking out on the stage and introducing a film like ‘Little Richard’ last year, and seeing the beautiful faces in the audience reflecting the diversity of not only that community, but so many different audiences that were touched by that movie.”

Malia Ann makes her debut

As we reported, Malia Obama made her debut on Friday in the short film competition with “The Heart.” Under the name Malia Ann, the daughter of President Barack Obama attended the first screening and red carpet for her short, which she directed and wrote.

“The film is about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret, but I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in these things,” Obama explained in a video for the film from Sundance. “We hope you enjoy the film and it makes you feel a bit less lonely, or at least reminds you not to forget about the people who are.”

‘Freaky Tales’ earns applause

Star-studded movie “Freaky Tales” made its debut on opening day of the festival, drawing a sold-out crowd to the Eccles Center to catch this much-talked-about project from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who recently penned Disney’s “Captain Marvel.” Twenty years ago, the duo won the Sundance’s 2004 Grand Jury prize for their short, “Gowanus, Brooklyn.”

Tamra Goins, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, Keir Gilchrist, Pedro Pascal, Ji-young Yoo, Jay Ellis, Ryan Fleck, Symba, Too $hort, Dominique Thorne, Jack Champion, Normani Kordei Hamilton and others attend the “Freaky Tales” premiere Thursday during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Much of the cast — including Jay Ellis, Normani (in the singer’s feature film debut), Dominique Thorne, Pedro Pascal and more — took to the stage to celebrate the film after it received rapturous applause.

As theGrio previously reported, “Freaky Tales” features four interconnected “tales” set in 1987 in Oakland, California: “Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads, a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality, a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption, and an NBA All-Star settles the score. Another day in the Bay.”

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.