OUTshine Film Festival Closing Night Event

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By Arlene De La Torre

A stellar Miami vacation, starring you, as a VIP at the Closing Night party of the Outshine LGBTQ Film Festival

Ever get the feeling while on vacation that something really cool just happened that’s created an unforgettable memory? Coming to Greater Miami and the Beaches in April and attending the OUTshine Film Festival’s Closing Night party promises just that.

OUTshine’s grand finale is a triumphant party where the “who’s who” of this festival— those involved in film and those who love it — savor the conclusion of the annual, 10-day Miami Beach event that celebrates cinematic arts through LGBTQ lenses.

Whether you’re visiting Miami or a local, Closing Night is extraordinary because it’s an event where a filmgoer like us can mingle in a relaxed, social setting with the talented professionals (and celebrities!) who create films on or about the LGBTQ experience, or from that perspective. Filmmakers and devotees are on equal footing here. This means artists and industry folks enjoy this important last chance to meet their audiences and colleagues, get feedback on their work and share festival experiences and insights.

It’s a real-life, Miami-style, VIP experience you’d probably enjoy having, you might be thinking, “if only you could.” Well, you can because this “exclusive” event is actually very inclusive and accessible to everyone, with the purchase of a ticket through the OUTshine Film Festival.

The gayest of “wrap” parties

If you’ve never attended a “wrap party” celebrating the finish of work on a play or film production, the OUTshine Closing Night is a version of that. This year’s event was held at the elegant Lobster Bar Sea Grille, in the heart of South Beach. Here, walking through sheer, floor-to-ceiling curtains, and past the velvet ropes, you arrive at a Zen indoor/outdoor patio area. You’re in for something special— and feeling very much the VIP. “Chill” music fills the air and friendly bartenders from Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Bacardi quickly fill your glass. Smiles create connections across the room and among the internationally diverse crowd. There’s an openness that allows conversations to flow and strangers to become friends.

The people that make up this unique, once-a-year festival community are genuinely warm. Comprising a spectrum of mostly LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ allies, it’s a vibrant mix of festival newcomers, members, and loyal, repeat attendees. “It’s like a reunion of friends —and each year it’s invigorated by new people, faces, creativity, and venues,” said returning guest, Peter Campbell.

Linda Watson, whose enthusiasm for OUTshine inspired her to upgrade from “regular” festival-goer to becoming a philanthropic, “Producers Circle”-level member of the organization, enjoys the evening and her role as an ambassador to filmmakers and guests alike. “The Festival is a great occasion to learn about films and see films that teach us about life. I like making everyone who attends feel welcome; it brings together brilliant people from all walks of life.”

Culture, with cocktails and canapes. Yes, please!

Brilliance and creativity have many expressions here— and the proof comes in the artfully prepared canapes of salmon carpaccio, luscious steak tidbits, and truffle potatoes being served by Lobster Bar’s chefs. These are solid fixins to satisfy the appetites of moviegoers who’ve been binging on cinematic art most of the day! Reinforced by sustenance, there’s renewed energy for a fresh round of topics to chat about.

It’s exactly these type of interpersonal exchanges that draws Alex Barros of Gilead Science, a global biopharmaceutical company, an OUTshine Festival corporate sponsor, to this event. He’s personally fond of the evening that, he says, “Offers the opportunity to mix culture and cocktails, in a sophisticated environment that promotes intelligent adult conversations.”

Christian Vidal, a 20-something designer from Puerto Rico, enjoys getting to know film makers and other film lovers from many locations, LGBTQ segments, cultures and generations. “The diversity is what’s interesting to me; meeting all kinds of people and being part of a very open, LGBTQ Miami Beach experience.” As appealing as that open and “out” experience is for many, it’s particularly significant for visitors coming from less LGBTQ-friendly places. Rene Peña, a transsexual man featured in the documentary, “Beyond the Opposite Sex,” was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to be himself and for he and his wife to feel comfortable in Miami— so unlike the socially conservative Texas area he calls home. “I was curious about Miami and this festival was my chance to check it out. Now I see it’s a special, fun and accepting city. I’ll definitely be back.”

Whether it’s an interest in acclaimed LGBTQ films, the prospect of socializing with film stars and makers, or the appeal of making new friends with likeminded locals and visitors at a South Beach VIP party, Closing Night is a premier addition to your Miami vacation plan — and most likely, one of its highlights.

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