Ania Trzebiatowska has compiled an eclectic selection of fiction and non-fiction titles for the third annual Sands International Film Festival, which kicked off this evening in St Andrews, Scotland. 

Mounted across one weekend (April 19 – 21) in the ancient university town, Trzebiatowska — also a full-time programmer at Sundance — runs the festival with an impressive gang of part-time student programmers from the University of St. Andrews, a partner on the festival alongside Joe and Anthony Russo’s AGBO. The Avengers: Endgame filmmakers are connected to the town through Joe’s eldest daughter, who studied at St Andrews. The two Russos were in the building this evening, 

“I love the energy of this town. I love how warm everyone is and how enthusiastic the students are,” Joe said opening the event. “It permeates the experience of being here. And it’s such an incredible backdrop for the festival for those reasons. It’s great to have a festival that is steeped in an academic mindset with curious students asking questions. It was a really important part of our upbringing. We were film students when we got discovered.” 

Also in the building this evening was Spiderman actor Tom Holland, who accompanied his younger brother, Harry, up to Scotland to present Last Call, a short project they shot together in London. The film follows a desperate mother searching for a way to reconnect with her son. Tom stars opposite veteran Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan (Blackbird) in the pic, which first screened at Tribeca. The audience inside The Byre Theatre in St Andrews was completely charmed by the short, with many visitors remarking on its ambition and skill following the screening. Running over a brisk 19 minutes, the short could be compared, thematically, to Andrew Haigh’s last film All Of Us Strangers

Introducing Last Call alongside Trzebiatowska, Harry said he crafted the pic while helping out around the set of his brother’s film 2021 war film Cherry, shot by the Russos. 

“When I wrote the film we were in Cleveland, Ohio, working on Cherry and I was struggling with my own mental health,” Harry said. “I knew I wanted to create something and the theme of mental health would be at the forefront of whatever I wrote.”

He added: “As I look back at the film now — I wrote it five years ago — the theme and topic feel as topical now as it did all those years ago.”

Last Call was paired in a double feature with Naqqash Khalid’s debut feature In Camera, starring Nabhaan Rizwan, Rory Fleck Byrne, and Amir El-Masry. That film first debuted at Karlovy Vary in 2023.

Elsewhere across the weekend, Sands will screen Anna Hints’ Sundance-winning doc Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, Daisy Ridley-starrer Sometimes I Think About Dying, and Anthony and Joe Russo’s little-seen 2002 comedy Welcome to Collinwood. The film stars George Clooney, William H. Macy, and Sam Rockwell, and was produced by Steven Soderbergh, who will attend Sands to take part in an on-stage Q&A with the Russos helmed by Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. The session will be the first time the Russos have discussed the film in public with Soderbergh, whom they credit for their first big break. 

“Sands exists as a tribute to Mr. Soderbergh with the intention to inspire and encourage a new generation of storytellers,” Joe said of Soderbergh in his opening remarks this evening. 

Among other things on the Sands program are discussions with the composer and conductor Alan Silvestri and casting director Debra Zane, whose credits include The Hunger Games franchise, Ocean’s Eleven, Catch Me if You Can, and American Beauty. The festival ends April 21 with Maggie Contreras’ debut feature documentary Maestra, in which five female conductors from across the globe prepare for and compete in La Maestra – the world’s only competition for female conductors. 

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