Sean Fine ’96 Wins Oscar for ‘Inocente’

 Sean Fine '96 and Andrea Nix Fine head to the stage to accept the Oscar for best documentary short film. Photo credit: Darren Decker/A.M.P.A.S.

Sean Fine '96 and Andrea Nix Fine head to the stage to accept the Oscar for best documentary short film. Photo credit: Darren Decker/A.M.P.A.S.

When Sean Fine ’96 and Andrea Nix Fine heard the statistic, they knew it would define their next film: one in 45 children in the United States today is homeless.

That film, a short documentary that tells the story of a 15-year-old San Diego artist who’s been homeless most of her life, won the Fines their first Academy Award Feb. 24. Read the College’s story.

Inocente” follows Inocente Izucar as she struggles to come to terms with her life. She paints large canvases in vivid hues, wears bright colors and high-top sneakers, and makes up her face with bold swirls and swoops.

The Fines found her three years ago through an arts program that works with at-risk kids in San Diego. At the time, Izucar was an undocumented immigrant.

“If people knew my story they’d probably think I should be painting dark pictures,” she says. “Out there in the world usually things aren’t very colorful. Maybe if they were just a bit more colorful they’d make people just a little bit more happy.”

The 40-minute film drew critical acclaim and national attention when it aired on MTV last summer.

Fine was stunned to realize how many children in the United States are homeless. “Once in a while we need to stop and listen to them. Our film reflects that,” he said. He was struck, too, by the difference art made in Izucar’s life. She was on stage with the Fines when they accepted their Oscar, and he used the opportunity to urge the black-tie crowd to support arts programs for kids.

The Fines formed Fine Films in 2003, the year they were married. Nix Fine is director/writer; Fine is director/cinematographer. Their films often give voices to children facing extraordinary challenges. Their newest documentary, “Life According to Sam,” was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will air on HBO later this year. It chronicles a family’s fight against their 16-year-old son’s rare disease, progeria.

The Fines live in Washington, D.C., where he grew up. Fine’s father was a cinematographer and his mother was an editor. At Connecticut College, Fine designed his own major in zoology and filmmaking. Associate Professor of Art Ted Hendrickson remembers his keen interest in photography and his high work ethic. “He was the kind of student we as faculty all love to work with,” he said.

Hendrickson isn’t surprised by Fine’s success. “I remember him laboring in the darkroom perfecting his prints for hours,” he said. That same dedication allows the Fines to craft award-winning films.

“Framing the world with a camera, telling stories about that world, it is what photographic artists do,” Hendrickson said. “Whether a still image – or now in motion – Sean’s work carries impact and importance. The recognition is well-deserved.”

View a 2008 CC: Connecticut College Magazine profile of Sean Fine.