Miami International Film Fest Opening Night Party Themed Around Animated Chico & Rita

By Rebecca Wallwork March 8, 2011, 11:32 AM EST

Photo: Courtesy Miami International Film Festival

Miami International Film Festival 2011 Opening Night Celebration
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The Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) kicked off its 28th year on Friday, with the premiere and after-party for the film Chico & Rita. After a 7 p.m. screening at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami, more than 2,000 movie buffs made their way to the nearby Freedom Tower for the opening night celebration, starting at 9:30 p.m.
Miami Dade College, which produced and presented the festival, provided its art gallery and exhibition space in the historic building for the Cuban jazz-themed party. Chico & Rita’s setting in Havana circa 1948 served as inspiration for the night’s entertainment and decor, as did its animated format.

“Since this was the first time in MIFF’s history that an animated film was being featured in the opening night party, we wanted to incorporate that into the decor,” said event producer Lourdes C. Balepogi of Chispa Marketing.  

Working with Eric Trelles of ET Events, Balepogi's team designed simple black and white centerpieces, sponsor logos, and signage to evoke a Tropicana nightclub theme.

“We didn’t want to detract from the beautiful color of the movie,” said Balepogi, who also explained that the minimal signage helped keep costs down. Miami Dade College Sign and Banner and the Media and Technology Services departments also contributed to the decor and audiovisual production.  

The design of the exhibition space allowed guests to roam from one alcove to another, sampling appetizers and desserts from restaurant and catering vendors, including Soi Asian Bistro, Mr. Yum, and SoBe Sweets, who served “Boom Boom Brownies” and “Cha Cha Guava Cheesecake. Bars serving Stella Artois, Estancia wines, Rums of Puerto Rico, and Illy coffee had their own booths, clearly marked with animation-inspired black-and-white signs.  

The central, and largest, section of the event space was reserved for local band Havana Soul, who performed on stage in front of a large—almost always packed—dance floor. MIFF sponsor logos were projected onto the walls above the dance floor, and footage from previous festival events played on flat-screen TVs around the room.

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