Fifteen-year-old Inocente is a lot of things: smart, artistic, brave – and homeless. The talented California teen – who’s experienced more adversity in her short years than many of us will in our lifetimes – is the subject of a 40-minute namesake movie, up for Best Documentary short at this Sunday’s Oscars.
“The first time we laid eyes on her, we knew we wanted to tell her story,” director/producers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine tell PEOPLE. “She had just finished painting and she was covered in paint and her face was painted with hearts. She literally looked like a rainbow with legs.”
After spending a week getting to know Inocente – they met her through the San Diego organization ARTS (A Reason to Survive) – the Fines began filming the teen and her family. “We felt that Inocente not only could trust us, but for the first time someone was asking this girl about herself,” the Fines say. “We were saying, ‘We want to listen, what you say is important.’ Not many people do that with kids, especially homeless kids.”
So why should you check out Inocente before Sunday’s Oscars? We’ll give you five reasons …
1. This girl will knock your socks off.
Considering the long road she’s had – a lack of a permanent home, physical abuse from both parents, two younger brothers that need her – Inocente is calm, collected and optimistic. “I think her ability to remain positive through extraordinary circumstances is one of her biggest strengths,” executive producer Ryan A. Brooks tells PEOPLE. “She is able to find light in darkness and beauty in almost everything.”
The Fines echo that sentiment. “Her courage in the face of homelessness and violence motivated us to work harder and to put all our craft into telling her story,” they say. “We think that whatever path she takes, she will continue to move and inspire people through her art and advocacy.”
2. It spotlights an important issue.
After reading a statistic that one in 45 U.S. children will experience homelessness in their lifetimes, the Fines set out to shed light on the sad cause. “We immediately knew we wanted to tell one of their stories,” they say. “Homeless kids are an invisible population, despite the exponentially rising numbers.”
3. By watching, you’ll hopefully be inspired to help.
Not only are the Fines hoping to raise awareness about homelessness amongst children, but about funding cuts to the arts, too. “Inocente shows the power and impact art can have on a child,” they say. “Art can be a lifeline. Without art, we don’t know where Inocente would be.”
Where she is now, though, is great: Living in her own studio apartment (funded by the sales of her artwork) and continuing to inspire others. “She would like to continue to be an advocate for other homeless kids, write a children’s book and one day get a college degree,” the Fines say. “Before she felt a sense of shame about being homeless, especially around her peers, but now she is confident to share her history, and it’s become very important to her that other homeless children see her success and see their own future as one where their dreams are possible.”
4. You don’t have to leave home to see the film.
Though Inocente is in select theaters throughout the U.S., it’s currently available on iTunes for rental ($3.99-$4.99) and download-to-own ($7.99-$9.99), meaning you can watch from the comfort of your couch while wearing your PJs.
5. You’ll be meeting one of Oscar’s VIP guests.
Sunday “is going to be an amazing night, because Inocente will be our guest [at the awards],” the Fines tell PEOPLE. “And for the first time in Oscar history, a formerly homeless girl will walk the red carpet.” Now that’s something to smile about.
The 85th annual Academy Awards will air live on ABC starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Sunday, Feb. 24, from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.