Film featuring local teenage artist Inocente Izucar wins Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject

SAN DIEGO - A local teenage artist whose documentary won an Academy Award Sunday evening spoke to 10News about the victory.

LINK: Special Oscars Section

"Inocente," which tells the story of Inocente Izucar's journey through art and pain, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject during the 85th Academy Awards.

One day after the win, Izucar was the center of a media blitz in Los Angeles.

She described her experience as "surreal," and she told 10News, "It was pretty amazing, you just lose your train of thought, you don't practice for anything like that. It's crazy being called up there for an Oscar. We thought we were dreaming … I was a little sore this morning from holding the Oscar all night; it's really heavy."

Izucar attended Vanity Fair's post-Oscars party, where she rubbed elbows with all the big names in Hollywood until 5 a.m.

"It was so awesome. Steven Tyler kissed me, and so did Daniel Day Lewis -- twice! I was a little sweaty so I felt bad," said Izucar.

Izucar plans to come home to San Diego Tuesday. Sales for her artwork are climbing after the big win, but her inspirational story has really only begun.

"I feel honored to be a voice for those who have no voice. I want to be an advocate and inspire kids," Izucar said.

Izucar's road to the Oscars

On the red carpet Sunday, Izucar was stunning in a crème-colored gown.

"Everyone started calling and getting really excited," said Izucar when she first learned that the film was an Oscar nominee. "This is really exciting."  

On Sunday, as she stood in between the directors who told her story, she seemed miles away from the pain she endured in San Diego. After her father was deported for domestic violence, Izucar, her mother and her siblings became homeless. The family moved from shelter to shelter.

In the documentary, Izucar's mother says things got so hopeless that plans were made for the entire family to jump off the Coronado Bay Bridge before Izucar talked her out of it.

Izucar had blocked the episode out before it came out in the film.

"I was shocked watching it," she told 10News. "It was very emotional for me to watch."

For much of her life, the emotions of living on the streets were hard to escape.

When she was 12, she was referred to a local nonprofit group, ARTS: A Reason To Survive. The group teaches the therapeutic aspects of art.

In the program, she started off with photography and gravitated toward painting. She was drawn to vibrant colors and abstract art.

"You could see the transformation as she got into the painting, she'd get lost," said Matt D'Arrigo, the founder of the group.

Izucar's story, which was profiled in a newspaper article, drew the attention of some well-known directors who ended up filming her for two years until the age of 17.

Recently, she had her first art exhibition in New York. Most of her pieces sold, which enabled her to get off the streets and into an apartment. She now lives in Chula Vista.

She shared with 10News her hopes for the film.

"It will reach out to more people, and hopefully inspire people," she said. "My message has always been never give up hope."

Click here to look at samples of Izucar's art.

Filmmakers say Kickstarter helped galvanize community around film

The Oscar-winning team behind the documentary short "Inocente" gave a shout-out to Kickstarter, a funding source for the coming-of-age story of a homeless and undocumented San Diego teen who's determined to become an artist.

"It really helped galvanize a community," Sean Fine said of the funding platform for creative projects, including films, games, music and art.  

"It helped fund a bunch of the film and kept us going through the post-production process," the documentarian told reporters backstage at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night.

Going to regular investing sources for the amount of additional cash they needed would have been tough, Andrea Nix Fine said.

"That's a huge ask. It's a hard ask," she said.

The married couple works out of Washington, D.C., and said that has its advantages.

"It's the seat of a lot of power," which helps bring attention to the subject of their film -- homelessness, Andrea said.

"One in 45 kids in this (U.S.) population is homeless," she said. "That's a hell of a lot of kids."

The Oscar will bring even more attention, her husband said. That a "young homeless girl could stand on the stage in front of a billion people (watching worldwide) and show people that homeless kids can have a voice" was a wonderful benefit of the win, he said.

Last nominated in 2008 for "War Dance," a documentary set in war-torn Northern Uganda, the couple still started to "feel butterflies" when the award was announced, Sean Fine said.

"I still have nail marks in my hands" from his wife squeezing them, he said.

But they were convinced that their Kickstarter investors at home were even more excited.

"You know they flipped out," she said.

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