Moving Pictures

By Ron Donoho / Photo by Rob Hammer

It was hot during Vanity Fair’s post-Academy Awards party in West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower, so Daniel Radcliffe asked Inocente Izucar if she’d like a glass of water. Izucar declined the gesture from the Harry Potter actor. “I wasn’t thirsty, but it was cool that he offered,” she says.

That night, Izucar compared Oscars with the actor who won gold for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln .

” Daniel Day-Lewis gave me two kisses,” Izucar says, giggling. “I was pretty excited about that. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith kissed me, too.”

The 19-year-old artist from San Diego wasn’t sure she’d be admitted to the Vanity Fair extravaganza, but her new film- industry friends informed her that carrying an Oscar gets you into every party.

Inocente Izucar spent most of her childhood homeless. Her dad beat her, until he was deported to Mexico. Undocumented, her nomadic family (her mom and two brothers) spent nights outdoors in parks. When Izucar was 11, her mom suggested they escape their dreary lives by jumping off the Coronado Bridge, but a passion for life, especially her colorful art, carried the teen through dark times.

That true story is the synopsis of Inocente, the movie that won Best Documentary Short Subject at the Oscars this year.

Husband-and-wife filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine found their documentary title character through San Diego-based ARTS (A Reason To Survive), a service organization that uses art programs to help kids facing challenges.

Now that the movie has won a major award, Izucar says she wants to give back and create awareness of other homeless children.

“A lot of people want to screen the film now,” she says. “It’s very exciting. The thing I want to do this year is help with advocacy. Winning the award is making people pay attention. A lot of people didn’t believe in the film, but now they do.”

ARTS founder Matt D’Arrigo, who stays up late to help her arrange personal appearances all over the country, says The National Arts Club has invited Izucar to do a New York show later this year.

Izucar speaks with a quiet confidence and exudes an old-soul maturity, but she’s quick to flash a cute smile, exposing a youthful sweet tooth used to munch on Smarties while being interviewed.

The demands on her time have increased so much that Izucar says she wishes she had a twin. She’s excited, though, that the movie is reaching young and old audiences through school screenings and private showings.

Her message to all audiences is simple: “Never give up. Have patience that things will get better. It’s just a matter of time.”

Her mother, she says, has turned her life around and now lives in an apartment in Barrio Logan. Izucar, who has been making a living selling her vivid paintings, has her own cherished apartment in Chula Vista, where she lives with two adopted pet bunnies, Luna and Bunbun.

“I feel like they’re misunderstood,” she says of her pets. “When you think of adopting, you think of cats and dogs. But bunnies need homes, too.”

Whether art imitates life or vice-versa, every bunny needs a place to call home.

Check out Innocente Izucar’s artwork at

Art Warming

ARTS: A Reason To Survive was conceived by Matt D’Arrigo, who found that music and art provided refuge during the time his mother was battling cancer. The organization helps at-risk youth get through challenges in their lives via arts programs. ARTS opened in 2007 in a 7,000-square-foot space in the Naval Training Center in Point Loma. Last year, the ARTS Center moved to a 20,000-square-foot National City facility that houses painting studios, industrial arts space, a music studio and a performing arts building. More than 200 kids use the ARTS Center on a weekly basis, says D’Arrigo, who’s currently in the process of building staff and infrastructure, and hopes San Diego can be a model for similar organizations around the country.

ARTS: A Reason to Survive
200 E. 12th St., National City