The sleeper hit of Oscar night was the story of one young artist who painted herself outside of every box society tried to impose on her. Inocente, the winner in the short documentary category, follows the journey of a homeless girl struggling to survive and basically raise herself in San Diego. Her mother struggles with alcohol dependency, and her abusive father has been deported. Sheer survival is no small feat under these circumstances, but, with the help of a community-based program, Inocente manages to thrive as an artist. Her story isn’t just one of youth overcoming daunting obstacles; it’s a window into the life of a girl who throws herself into every challenge the way she throws color on the wall, with defiance. She’s a homeless undocumented immigrant who carves out a dominion for herself on an unforgiving urban landscape. She’s isolated from many of the social institutions that her peers take for granted, but she builds a support network that embraces her artistic vision and brings it to a public that might otherwise have dismissed her as another statistic.
Inocente got to be in the Hollywood spotlight on Oscar night, but her story is fundamentally about how an artist can shine her own light on a corner of the social canvas that’s too often overlooked.
After the winner was announced, CultureStrike co-founder Favianna Rodriguez posted a note about why progressive movements need to reach out to communities where so many more kids like Inocente are waiting for a spark of inspiration:
I hope we get to a space where the progressive movement really respects the labor of artists. While its important to work in a rapid response mechanism and support campaigns, its equally as important to work on art that is about color, composition, healing, life, love, pain…
I hope to see a future where we support the socially engaged artists as they are their full complex selves. That is the work I hope to do in CultureStrike, is to support undocumented artists be their full artistic selves, not just making art about the struggle but also art that is about healing, about pain and about being human. Its already hard enough to be an artist with papers in this country with the extreme cuts in arts funding, its already hard to be an artist of color in a sector dominated by white men – it’s even harder if you do not have papers and therefore no access to public arts funds, and imagine the barriers to get into art school or music school. Its not just about math, science. Art is crucial. It’s how we can really shift the debate in this country on the issues that most matter to our people.
Learn more about Inocente at the film’s website.