From Homelessness to the Oscar Stage
Until fairly recently, 19-year-old Inocente Izucar had pretty much the shittiest childhood imaginable. An illegal immigrant, Inocente ended up homeless at a young age after her father was deported back to Mexico. She spent the majority of her childhood living on the streets and in shelters with her mother and three younger brothers. At one point, things got so bad that Inocente’s mother led her by the hand to a bridge where she planned to have them both jump off together, before being talked out of it by her daughter.
Her luck changed a few years ago when Academy Award-nominated producing couple Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine decided to make a documentary about her and her art (which you can watch the trailer for above). On Sunday, the film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, and Inocente was there to collect the award. Her appearance was a refreshing change from the parade of the rich and famous men who make up the majority of the ceremony, so I got in touch with Inocente, Sean, and Andrea to talk with them about the experience.
VICE: First I just wanna say congrats on the Oscar win.
Inocente Izucar: Thank you.
How did you guys meet Inocente?
Andrea Nix Fine: We looked for her for months and months. She was our needle in a haystack. Basically, we really wanted to make a film about a homeless kid, because we came across the statistic that one in 45 kids in the US experiences homelessness. It’s something we felt nobody really knew about and nobody was paying attention to, so we were very interested in doing a film where we found somebody going through that experience, and we were particularly interested in finding an artist because I felt that would be a wonderful way to meet somebody and experience her dreams. So we just started calling all over the country and eventually we ended up talking to a San Diego-based group called A Reason to Survive that helps kids who face adversity get into art, and they introduced us to Inocente.
And, Inocente, what was your situation like when you met the Fines, for people who haven’t seen the film?
Inocente: I was 15, and I’d been homeless for like, nine years.
Would you mind describing the events that led up to your becoming homeless?
Inocente: Well, my dad basically kidnapped me and my three brothers and brought us up to the US from Mexico. He told my mom he would come get her later, but he never did, so my mom crossed the border by herself to come find us. When she got here, he was really abusive. And one day it was really bad, so we called the cops. Here in the US domestic violence isn’t tolerated, so when the cops came, he was deported. The place we were living was his sister’s house, and because it was his side of the family, we ended up in the shelter.