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Celeb-spotting or serious cinema? Plan your weekend at the St Andrews film festival

With rare film screenings, director panels, Q&A sessions and behind-the-scenes magic, there's something for everyone at Sands 2024.

Sands 2024 will feature an rare opportunity to see 2002 film Welcome To Collinwood on the big screen. Image: Supplied.
Sands 2024 will feature an rare opportunity to see 2002 film Welcome To Collinwood on the big screen. Image: Supplied.

Movie buffs across Scotland are set to descend on St Andrews this weekend as the Sands International Festival of Film returns for its third iteration.

Founded by Avengers director Joe Russo, the boutique festival is once again filled with big names and future-facing events that just can’t be found anywhere else.

So no matter whether you’re a conscientious cinephile or a blockbuster-only buyer, you’re sure to find something at Sands Film Festival 2024.

For celeb-spotting and big names…

Welcome to Collinwood. Image: Supplied.

Welcome to Collinwood, Byre Theatre, Saturday April 20 at 5pm: Screening and panel discussion with Joe Russo, Anthony Russo and Steven Soderbergh.

In 2002 Anthony and Joe Russo (known as The Russo Brothers) made their joint directorial debut proper with Welcome to Collinwood.

This low-budget indie film tells the story of a bunch of misfit small-time crooks in their home city of Cleveland, Ohio.

An understated breakout into their huge shared career of blockbuster hits, its cast included William H Macy, Sam Rockwell and George Clooney, the latter co-producing alongside Steven Soderbergh.

Avengers director Joe Russo is the co-founder of Sands film festival. Image: Supplied.

Soderbergh is an acclaimed director in his own right, whose films include Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven and Magic Mike.

Now the Russo brothers and Soderbergh – three of cinema’s most successful contemporary directors – will discuss the brothers’ formative steps after a screening of their breakthrough film, in hopes that aspiring filmmakers may learn from their journey.

Price: Pay What You Can £20.00 / £18.00 / £16.00.

Can’t make it? Check out The Courier’s interview with Joe Russo, where he reveals his favourite spots in St Andrews.

For the sound of the movies…

Alan Silvestri attends the premiere of the movie Pinocchio, at Walt Disney Studios in 2022. Image: Allison Dinner.

An Afternoon with Alan Silvestri, Laidlaw Music Centre, Sunday April 21 at 3pm: Discussion and performance. 

What do Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, The Bodyguard, The Abyss, Night at the Museum, the Avengers films and Predator have in common?

They were all scored by composer Alan Silvestri, who has been creating music for film since the 1970s and is still going strong.

At Sands, An Afternoon with Alan Silvestri will find him not only discussing his music and films in-person, but will also involve a 38-strong orchestra featuring student and professional players from the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra playing excerpts from his vast body of work.

Once again, it’s the kind of mouth-watering event which film-lovers won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Price: Pay What You Can £20.00 / £18.00 / £16.00

For gamers…

Chris Van der Kuyl is one of the leading experts of Dundee’s booming games industry. Image: Kris Miller/DC Thomson.

Sands on Gaming with Chris Van der Kuyl and Donald Mustard, Laidlaw Music Centre, Saturday April 20 at 1.45pm: Panel discussion.

As digital technology becomes increasingly commonplace in live action films as well as animation, and video games become more vividly realistic and complex, the line between skills needed in the film and gaming industries continues to blur.

With the games innovation hub that is Dundee right on St Andrews’ doorstep, this special Sands on Gaming event brings creators who are as highly-regarded as the Russos within the games world to the town.

From Dundee, Chris van der Kuyl is the co-founder and chairman of 4J Studios, whose big success came when they developed the Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch versions of the global hit Minecraft, by Swedish developer Mojang Studios.

He’ll be appearing alongside Donald Mustard, a rock star of the global industry, who in his former role as chief creative officer at Epic Games created and directed another global success in Fortnite.

Price: Free, but spaces must be booked. 

For behind-the-scenes discussion…

Sands Film Festival takes place across various venues in St Andrews, including the Byre Theatre. Image: Supplied.

Hollywood casting agent Debra Zane, Saturday April 20 at 10.30am: Talk. 

Debra Zane is one of Hollywood’s leading casting agents, who has worked with everyone from Soderbergh to Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes and Ridley Scott.

With a CV including the Hunger Games films, Dreamgirls and the cult hit Cocaine Bear, her insights into her role will be unique and fascinating.

Elsewhere, On Documentary (Laidlaw Music Centre, Saturday April 20,12pm) features Apple TV’s Head of Documentaries and Non-Fiction, Molly Thompson.

And getting meta, The Art of Curation (Friday 19th, 3pm), will see Dublin Film Festival’s Gráinne Humphries and MoMA film curator Josh Siegel talking about putting together a film festival bill just like this one.

Prices: All free, but spaces must be booked. 

For people who want to see movies…

Last Call stars Spiderman actor Tom Holland. The film will be screened at Sands film festival 2024. Image: Natasha Mullan.

Listening to global experts in their field discuss their craft is all well and good, but a lot of people might just want to go to a film festival to watch films.

Luckily, there are plenty of intriguing new productions to go around at Sands, with many involving a Q&A afterwards with the filmmakers:

  •  Last Call and In Camera (Friday April 19, 7.30pm): This a double bill of tales about troubled, modern British youth. Last Call is the new short film by director Harry Holland, which stars his Spider-Man actor brother Tom. Meanwhile In Camera is Naqqash Khalid’s feature film about a young actor desperately seeking work;
  • Sometimes I Think About Dying (Saturday April 20, 8.30pm): Rachel Lambert’s new film about an unconventional office relationship, starring Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley;
  • Silent Roar (Saturday April 20, 11am): Johnny Barrington’s film about a young surfer on the Isle of Lewis who’s falling in love as he comes to terms with his father’s disappearance at sea;
  • Achilles (Sunday April 21, 4.30pm): Farhad Delaram’s story of political abuse and escape in contemporary Iran; and
  • Maestra (Sunday April 21, 7.30pm): Maggie Contreras’ debut documentary, about the world’s only competition for female conductors. Again, many of these screenings involve a filmmaker Q&A afterwards.

Prices: Various, see Sands website for full programme and prices.

Sands Film Festival of St Andrews takes place at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, from April 19-21 2024.