Outshine Film Festival Opening Night

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By Arlene De La Torre

Spring fling in Miami? OUTshine gives you one more reason to say, “yes!”

As if Miami’s near-perfect April weather wasn’t already reason enough to visit, OUTshine Film Festival, a 10-day celebration of the LGBTQ+ experience portrayed on the big screen, makes the proposition irresistible. Featuring known, up-and-coming and emerging films, artists, actors and filmmakers, OUTshine gives film-lovers a buffet of LGBTQ+ movies, a sun-filled escape from winter and that electrifying mix of culture, people and parties that Miami does best.Kicking off this fantastic binge-watch—and your first taste of the OUTshine experience, is Opening Night. The excitement is exhilarating! You walk up the red carpet and pose under the marquee, where true-life paparazzi photograph you against the Festival’s banner. Regardless of what your day was like earlier, you’re feeling like a star, now.

Located at unique venues throughout Greater Miami each year, the 2018 Premiere (the 20th anniversary!) was held at the historic, Scottish Rite Temple, neighboring the Miami River. The Temple is a rare example of the Egyptian-influenced, Art Deco architectural trend spurred in 1922, when archeologists discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. This place was once a silent movie theater, but tonight’s event screams “fabulous.”

Art is a universal language and OUTshine is fluent in many. Among the audiences (and selection of festival films,) you’ll hear English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish, Korean, Albanian, Hindi, French, German— making it easy to strike up conversation, regardless of your origin. Diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion are pinnacles of this festival. There’s a camaraderie that makes you feel part of “the family,” even if yours is thousands of miles from here. Everyone feels welcome and we’re all brought together by our love of LGBTQ+ cinema, the cinematic arts— and fun!

No wonder Anthony Lewis, a scientist from London, England, has been attending the festival for 12 consecutive years, with his partner. “It’s an ideal holiday,” says Lewis, “during the day, we enjoy the weather and evenings, we enjoy the parties, the excellent selection of films, and a ready-made community of LGBTQ+ people who’re part of the OUTshine experience.” He adds, “Quite often, we get to meet the directors and actors, which in London isn’t possible unless you know someone who knows someone. People remember you from year to year, and we’ve made friends who we meet up with, around the world.”

It’s a Miami party, and that means everyone is ready for their close-up — all the time!

With guests in chic event attire — from couture to consignment and everything in-between — people-watching becomes part of the evening’s entertainment. Age and gender identification notwithstanding, the whim to play dress-up has overtaken everyone. Cheeky compliments are exchanged and cameras capture the celebratory mood.

Announcements signal us to get seated for the program’s start. Inside the auditorium, with its Art Deco motifs and historic pipe organ, we travel back in time to the same theater, once occupied by silent movie-goers in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Ushers snap us back into the present, carrying silver trays with complimentary bags of popcorn … rainbow-colored popcorn, of course!

The lights dim. A fast-paced Festival trailer highlights what’s to come during OUTshine: 80 films. 30 premieres. 15 countries. 10 days. This is a big deal! A comedic spiel by the Festival’s organizers primes the audience. The mood is light and gay, it’s time for the main attraction: an energetic, Italian, romantic comedy titled, “My Big Gay Italian Wedding,” – and two of its actors are here for a post-screening Q & A and the after-party! The Italians are here, and are they ever cute!

“Gay Wedding” is funny, relatable, with beautiful Italian locations and easy-on-the-eyes actors known to Italian film and theater aficionados. OUTshine’s programming staff knows how to set the tone—and the bar— for kicking off a Festival. And speaking of bars, it’s time for the after-party!

We walk out and through billowy white curtains and enter a fantasy wedding reception area, passing two muscular, real-life, dancing “toy soldiers.” DJ Smeejay is already spinning dance classics for the multi-generational crowd to bop to while enjoying cocktails courtesy of Tito’s Vodka and Bacardi, antipasti and catered food.

Wait — Is that a multi-tiered wedding cake under a floral archway? Yes! It’s part of an animated photo booth set up by local e-zine, New Tropic, that lets partygoers be photographed as grooms, brides or guests. There’s a queue for the booth, so seize the moment to chat with the Italian film’s stars, or maybe, one of the Festival filmmakers or artists. At OUTshine, access to celebrities is easy, unintimidating and part of the experience!

As the evening progresses, limbs get limber and we’re in full disco-dance mode. Guests take to the floor and the festive, festival spirit is in full swing. This really IS more than just another night out in Miami, it’s a night that OUTshines!

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