Tom Holland’s ‘Last Call’ Steals the Show at Sands International Film Festival’s Grand Opening

The quaint and historical town of St Andrews in Scotland was abuzz this past Friday as it hosted the third annual Sands International Film Festival, meticulously curated by Ania Trzebiatowska. The festival, renowned for its unique blend of both fiction and non-fiction films, saw significant contributions from Trzebiatowska, who balances her role here with her programming duties at Sundance.

This year’s festival, a collaborative effort between the University of St. Andrews and the Russo brothers’ AGBO company, drew an impressive crowd, including industry luminaries and enthusiastic student volunteers. Joe Russo, whose connection to St Andrews runs deep through his daughter’s alma mater, shared his affection for the town’s vibrant energy and the intellectual engagement of its students. “It’s a setting that’s perfect for fostering a love of film, nurtured by academic inquiry and youthful enthusiasm,” Joe Russo commented during the opening remarks.

Highlighting the evening was Tom Holland, who graced the event alongside his brother Harry to premiere their short film, ‘Last Call.’ Shot in London and featuring a compelling performance by veteran actress Lindsay Duncan, the 19-minute film explores the profound themes of connection and mental health through the lens of a mother’s relationship with her son. Initially unveiled at Tribeca, the film received high praise at The Byre Theatre for its poignant narrative and ambitious execution, drawing thematic parallels to Andrew Haigh’s ‘All of Us Strangers.’

During the presentation, Harry Holland shared insights into the personal and creative processes that shaped ‘Last Call.’ “The inspiration came while we were on the set of ‘Cherry’ in Cleveland, a period when I was personally grappling with mental health issues. The film was born from a desire to foreground these themes, which remain just as relevant today,” he explained.

The festival also featured the premiere of Naqqash Khalid’s ‘In Camera,’ an introspective drama that first appeared at Karlovy Vary in 2023. The lineup included several other noteworthy screenings such as Anna Hints’ ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood,’ ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’ starring Daisy Ridley, and the Russo brothers’ early comedy ‘Welcome to Collinwood.’ A special session with Steven Soderbergh, who produced ‘Collinwood,’ offered festival-goers a rare glimpse into the early careers of the Russo brothers.

In addition to film screenings, the Sands festival scheduled interactive sessions with notable industry figures like composer Alan Silvestri and casting director Debra Zane. The festival concluded on a high note with ‘Maestra,’ a documentary about the world’s only competition for female conductors, encapsulating Sands’ commitment to celebrating diverse and inspiring stories.

As the curtains drew on this year’s festival, Joe Russo’s reflections summed up the event’s ethos: “Sands is a homage to the spirit of discovery and innovation that Mr. Soderbergh embodies, aiming to ignite a passion for storytelling in a new generation of filmmakers.” The Sands International Film Festival once again proved to be a cornerstone event for cinema enthusiasts and budding filmmakers, blending cinematic artistry with educational enrichment in the historic backdrop of St Andrews.

The Sands International Film Festival, nestled in the historic ambiance of St Andrews, Scotland, not only celebrated cinematic excellence but also served as a confluence of emerging talent and seasoned industry professionals. As the festival wrapped up its third year, the charm of St Andrews combined with the thoughtful curation of films and discussions created an unforgettable experience for all attendees.

Among the festival’s highlights was the impactful short film ‘Last Call,’ presented by the Holland brothers. Tom Holland, renowned for his role as Spider-Man, and his brother Harry introduced the film, which delves into the emotional struggles of a mother trying to reconnect with her son amidst mental health challenges. The film’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, with many attendees praising its emotional depth and narrative elegance.

Harry Holland’s candid discussion about his personal struggles with mental health during the creation of ‘Last Call’ resonated deeply with the audience. His openness about the challenges he faced added a layer of authenticity and urgency to the film’s themes, making it not just a cinematic piece but a poignant conversation starter on mental health awareness.

The festival also shone a spotlight on first-time directors and underrepresented voices in the film industry. ‘Maestra,’ the closing feature documentary, stood out by showcasing the rigorous world of female conductors. This film not only highlighted the unique challenges faced by women in this field but also celebrated their resilience and artistry, offering an inspiring end to the festival.

Moreover, the inclusion of industry giants like Steven Soderbergh, who participated in a special Q&A session, provided invaluable learning opportunities for attendees. Discussions led by Soderbergh and the Russo brothers offered insights into the intersections of creative vision and industry dynamics, enriching the educational aspect of the festival.

The programming at Sands was carefully designed to blend entertainment with enlightenment, ensuring that each screening and session provided value and sparked curiosity. From the discussions with Alan Silvestri and Debra Zane, attendees gained a broader understanding of the collaborative nature of filmmaking, appreciating the roles that music and casting play in bringing cinematic stories to life.

As the festival concluded, the feedback from participants was unanimously positive, with many highlighting the diversity of the film selections and the quality of the discussions. The Sands International Film Festival not only celebrated film but also fostered a community of filmmakers and film lovers who share a passion for storytelling.

Looking forward, the organizers hope to continue expanding the festival’s reach, bringing more unique voices and stories to the fore. The success of this year’s event has set a high bar, but with the continued support of the local community, university students, and industry professionals, Sands is poised to become a staple in the international film festival circuit, eagerly awaited by cinephiles around the world.
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