Pedro Pascal said playing a hitman in his new rap-battling, punk-rocking, Nazi-slaying movie lived up to its "freaky" title, as the Sundance film festival kicked off Thursday.
"Freaky Tales," the Chilean-American actor and internet heartthrob's latest movie, was the hottest ticket for opening night at the indie film fest, with lines stretching around several blocks in sub-zero temperatures in the wintry Utah mountains.
The movie weaves together four stories on the same day in 1987 Oakland, with gory vengeance, interlocking timelines and street battles with skinhead Nazis among the many nods to Quentin Tarantino's influence.
Pascal plays a hitman pursued by a fascist gang -- who somehow also become embroiled with a basketball star, rappers and punk rockers -- and reflected on how filmmakers shot multiple fight scenes simultaneously at night to save money on one "crazy" night.
"You're killing all the Nazis, we were shooting downstairs. That was really freaky," said Pascal.
"You guys were miracle workers," he told directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, best known for $1 billion-grossing superhero hit "Captain Marvel," but returning to their indie roots.
A love letter to the Bay Area, the movie features homages to icons of the era such as hip-hop pioneer Too $hort and basketball star Sleepy Floyd -- and a secret cameo by a top Hollywood A-lister.
Sundance, the festival co-founded by Robert Redford and celebrating its 40th edition, is a key launchpad for top independent films.
Kristen Stewart, Richard Linklater and Steven Soderbergh all launch new projects this week, while documentaries will tackle topics from artificial intelligence to the future of US democracy.
"Eno," a documentary about legendary music producer Brian Eno that is different each time it is played, premiered earlier Thursday.
An intelligent computer engine determines which scenes to play and in which order, with 52 quintillion different versions of the movie possible, filmmakers said.
The premiere's version churned out archive footage of Eno collaborating with David Bowie and U2.
Also premiering Thursday was "Girls State," the eagerly awaited follow-up to 2020's hit documentary "Boys State," which will be released by Apple in April.
Like the first film, it features high schoolers setting up a model state government, including hotly contested elections -- or popularity contests -- for its governor and supreme court.
This time the focus is on the girls, who are torn between supporting fellow women and locking horns with each other over issues like abortion.
While some films like "Girls State" have already secured releases with top studios, most premiering at Sundance -- including "Freaky Tales" -- hope to find buyers at the festival.
"I hope we get distribution with somebody who will allow it to play in the theater first, and then streaming," June Squibb, the 94-year-old star of buzzy opening-night action-comedy "Thelma," told AFP.
Former "Twilight" star Stewart has a pair of movies debuting -- "Love Lies Bleeding," about a criminal affair between a gym manager and a bisexual bodybuilder, and oddball post-human romance "Love Me," also starring Steven Yeun.
Honored at Sundance's opening gala Thursday, Stewart praised the festival's role in getting arthouse films made, calling it "a place full of 'Yes' in a world full of 'No.'"
Elsewhere this week, Jesse Eisenberg will direct himself and Kieran Culkin as two mismatched cousins visiting their grandmother's Polish homeland in "A Real Pain."
Saoirse Ronan gives a hotly tipped performance in "The Outrun" as an alcoholic who returns from London to the wild beauty of Scotland's Orkney Islands to heal.
And Sundance favorites Soderbergh and Linklater return to Park City with their latest projects. The former has a creepy suburban drama starring Lucy Liu ("Presence"), while the latter offers a portrait of his hometown in documentary series "God Save Texas."
Sundance runs from Thursday through to January 28.