From the streets of San Diego to Duke University’s campus, Inocente Izucar is sharing her story of redemption, family and art.
“Inocente”—the Academy Award-winning documentary short film about Izucar’s life directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine—was screened Monday evening in White Lecture hall to a capacity crowd of students, faculty and local community members.
The 40-minute long film, which won the 2013 Academy Award for best documentary short, told the story of Inocente Izucar—a homeless, 15-year-old undocumented daughter of Mexican immigrants. In the film, Izucar dreams of becoming a professional artist, and eventually has the opportunity to show 30 of her pieces thanks to the help of ARTS: A Reason To Survive—a non-profit, San Diego-based organization that gives artistic instruction to underprivileged kids. As she worked on the art for the show, Izucar discussed her family, her art and her outlook throughout the film.
“Just because I’m homeless doesn’t mean I don’t have a life,” Izucar said at the beginning of the documentary.
The film explained how Inocente’s father, an abusive presence in the Izucar household, was deported back to Mexico in the aftermath of a particularly ugly domestic dispute when Inocente was very young. Inocente’s mother, Carmela, struggled to provide for her children as the family bounced around from shelter to shelter.
“My mom pays rent, but we’re illegal so its just a matter of time before… we get kicked out,” Inocente narrated in the documentary.
While navigating her living situation and preparing for the art show, Inocente discussed the difficulty of living as an undocumented, illegal immigrant in the United States throughout the documentary.
Jenny Snead Williams, executive director of Latino/a studies, noted in a brief speech to the crowd that undocumented workers are of particular concern to the University community.
“The issue of undocumented status is not removed from us here at Duke. We have students who are undocumented and who have undocumented family members,” she said. “There are 11 million undocumented people here in the U.S. This topic touches us all.”
Srinivas Aravamudan, professor of English, literature and romance studies and dean of the humanities, noted that he hoped the film’s screening would help Durham’s Latin community gain greater access to the University.
“[We want to] help immigrant student leaders share their stories with broader audiences,” he said.
After the screening, Izucar and Matt D’Arrigo, founder and CEO of ARTS, fielded questions from the audience.
Izucar said she was excited about the documentary, which includes scenes that were shot at her school and in the shelters where she and her family stayed.
“I love the way [the film] turned out,” Izucar said.
When asked if it was difficult to film the scenes at her school, Izucar responded with a bit of humor.
“The cameraman told everyone that we were filming a Snoop Dogg video,” she said.
Many students who attended the film were pleased with its quality.
“I thought it was really well-done,” sophomore Hanna Wiegers noted. “I thought it was going to be too artistic... because it won an Oscar... but after we heard her describe her story, I thought they did a really good job of portraying [it] pretty accurately.”
Others enjoyed the fresh perspective that the film offered.
“It was nice... to take a break from the environment that we’re in and realize that some of our problems aren’t really as big as some of other people’s,” junior Alex Saldana said.
D’Arrigo said that the film is a great advocacy tool for the homeless and undocumented living in America. He also commended Izucar’s willingness to be the film’s subject.
“She said, ‘if it helps other people, I want to do it,’” D’Arrigo said.
Since the documentary was released, Izucar has moved into her own apartment and completed her GED. Her mother has since found work in San Diego and has been living in an apartment with Inocente’s brothers for the past two years.
“I think a lot of people can relate to this story. I don’t think this documentary is about me, but everyone else that has been in this situation,” Izucar said.
She urged people that are living in tough situations to never give up hope. Despite all of her struggles, Izucar said that she remains optimistic in the face of all odds.
“I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them,” she said.