Two years ago, the film Inside Job, which I executive produced, won the coveted Oscar for best documentary. This year, I am thrilled to have another film that's been nominated for an Oscar in the short documentary category. It's called Inocente.
The project first came to my attention in 2008 under the title Resilient. It was going to be a film in which Mariane Pearl, the widow of Daniel Pearl, would act as the narrator and the unifying force behind a celebration of women quietly surviving brutality and injustice. Mariane was going to guide the viewer on a progressive voyage through four women's lives, juxtaposing her own astonishing lesson of "resilience" with the courage and the bravery of the other women who fought for their own dreams.
Fast forward to August 2012 and the film now known as Inocente premieres on MTV. It is now the singular story of Inocente, age 15, an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years, who refused to let her dream of becoming an artist be caged by her circumstances. The film's directors, Sean and Andrea Fine, had discovered her in San Diego and have made an intensely personal and vibrant coming of age documentary about this young artist's fierce determination to never surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings.
The film is a life lesson about the transformative power of art (arts education has never been more endangered than it is today) and a timely snapshot of the new face of homelessness in America, its "children." There are 1.5 million homeless children in the U.S. today and the largest growing group of them are the undocumented. Sadly, they are all faceless. Inocente is one of the estimated 1.8 million undocumented children brought to this country by immigrant parents and as such, she is also one of the "invisible minority" within the homeless sub-culture.
The film's original producer, Yael Melamede, has shown her own "resilience." Together with the Fines, she never gave up on making a film that would resonate with issues of our times. She sought willing backers, fellow producers and executive producers, and private foundations like Shine Global who all believed that Inocente's journey is one that needed to be visually told. And so come Sunday, February 24th, the film is in worthy company as it awaits the decision regarding which short documentary will win this year's Oscar.
As for Inocente herself, she is now more in control of her own destiny, her own future, with art as her voice. And that's the message that Mariane Pearl had always wanted to share: resilience and a defiant refusal to sink into fear and helplessness.