innocente awards
The Academy Awards are rarely a platform for independent films, let alone Latino films but this year was different for a young Latina artist named Inocente Izucar. The circumstances of her life, chronicled in the short documentary film Inocente, are heartbreaking. She has suffered physical abuse, chronic homelessness, and the constant fear of deportation since she and her family are undocumented. But, through intimate interviews with Inocente, her calm voice narrating the details of her experiences, it becomes apparent that her optimism is unbreakable. She turns to art, to painting, to soothe her pain.


When it was announced that the film Inocente won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short the directors, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, went up on stage to accept their award and took Inocente with them. In his acceptance speech Sean Fine thanked Inocente, “Most of all, we want to thank this young lady who was homeless just a year ago and now she’s standing in front of all of you.”  The win has thrust her into the spotlight. Her website has been flooded with orders for her artwork. She has received countless requests for interviews, offers for college scholarships, and invitations to showcase her work. The next day, she reflected on how to use her newfound celebrity and told her local news station in San Diego that, “I feel honored to be a voice for those who have no voice. I want to be an advocate and inspire kids.”

The process of making the film itself can also serve as an inspiration to indie filmmakers. It is the first time a crowdfunded film has won an Oscar. Last summer, the team behind the film (including John Leguizamo, Executive Producer) set up a Kickstarter page hoping to raise $50,000 for post-production costs and to set up a website. Within a month, and with the help of close to 300 backers they reached their funding goal.


Inocente Izucar in 'Inocente'
Inocente Izucar in 'Inocente'

Inocente has been saved by her love of painting. She has been homeless, along with her mother and three brothers, for most of her young life. Drifting from one shelter to the next, sometimes sleeping in a park or living a few months in a tiny apartment before being evicted has left her wondering, “What would it be like to have my own room?” After years of struggling she found ARTS, or A Reason to Survive, a San Diego based community arts program for at-risk youth. In the film, we follow her as she prepares for a fundraiser for ARTS, an art show for which she has to create 30 paintings over the course of three months.


Her voice carries the film as she narrates the challenges she has faced and as the camera trails the swirls of her paintbrush. Her profound sadness and pain find their way down her face in tears but are wiped away by her boundless ability to bounce back from adversity. She fantasizes about walking on clouds, riding shooting stars, and trees that can talk and then paints her daydreams onto a canvas. She says, “I have a lot of impossible dreams but I still dream them.” It’s her ability to imagine fantastical things and dream about the future that push her forward and drive her desire to paint bright, colorful images. And its her dogged ambition that continues to motivate her. She says, “If you want your dreams to come true you have to make them comes true.” Inocente has done just that having landed on the world’s largest stage, the Academy Awards, after being homeless and undocumented.

Inocente is available for download on iTunes and for free on For more info visit Follow @InocenteDoc on Twitter and Facebook. You can buy Inocente’s artwork on her website.

Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.