Connecticut College graduate wins Oscar for best documentary short

Sean Fine, a 1996 Connecticut College graduate, won an Oscar last night in the best documentary short film category for “Inocente,” which he made with his wife, Andrea Nix Fine.

The film tells the story of a 15-year-old homeless girl, Inocente Izucar, who lives in San Diego as an artist and illegal immigrant. Through painting, she learns to overcome the bleakness of her surroundings.

“When they called our names, it just seemed really surreal,” Fine said in a backstage Oscar interview. Fine said he and Nix Fine were squeezing each other’s hands so tight, he had her nail marks in his palms.

At Connecticut College, Fine designed his own major in zoology and filmmaking. After graduating, he directed and shot several films for National Geographic, winning an Emmy in 2000. He and Nix Fine formed the Washington D.C.-based Fine Films in 2003, the year they were married.

They have four scripts in development for feature narratives and just returned from the Sundance Film Festival, where they screened their latest film, “Life According to Sam.”

The production of “Inocente” began three years ago when the Fines wanted to make a film about homeless children. They began looking for a way to tell the story and found Izucar – who was also an undocumented immigrant – through an arts program that works with at-risk kids in San Diego.

The Oscar nod for “Inocente” is the couple’s second in five years. They were nominated in 2008 for “War/Dance,” a documentary about children from Uganda who aspired to win a national music competition. “War/Dance” won more than 18 awards, including Emmy awards for best documentary and cinematography and the Sundance Film Festival’s award for best documentary direction.

Fine told Connecticut College’s alumni magazine in 2008 that professors Janis Solomon, now the Lucretia L. Allyn Professor Emeritus of German, and Theodore Hendrickson, associate professor of art, helped him find his niche.

“I was so grateful that they encouraged me to pursue my interests. I wasn’t squashed because I didn’t fit the mold. I had freedom,” he said.

About Connecticut College

Connecticut College is a private, highly selective liberal arts college with 1,850 students and more than 40 majors in the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities, as well as the option for students to self-design majors. The College offers a high level of intellectual challenge, a campus culture that supports students to tailor their educational experience to their own interests and goals, and a four-year career development program that teaches students how to translate a liberal arts degree into a first job or graduate school admission. Connecticut College is situated in the small New England seaport of New London. For more information, visit www.connecticutcollege.edu.