When you look at the paintings featured in this documentary you’ll see art that is bold, bright, and beautiful. This is fitting, since all of those qualities are exuded by the artist herself.

Inocente is a 15-year-old visual artist from San Diego. Her mother brought her into America illegally when she was a little girl, and ever since then, Inocente and her family have been homeless. They’ve lived in every sort of shelter you can imagine, and even some you couldn’t. But from that sad state of affairs has come something truly joyous – Inocente’s art.

INOCENTE – the film – is an inspirational and worthy tribute to Inocente the young woman. The film has gone to great lengths to honour not just the girl herself, but also her wonderful artwork. To do so, it uses the same vibrant palette we see in her art, which sometimes makes it feel like the story is taking place inside one of those wonderful paintings.

The storytelling borrows some of the boldness of her work by having the main subject herself break the fourth wall and speak directly to us to tell her story. It’s a great technique as it plays off the way Inocente paints her face. The lines and flourishes she adds draw immediate focus to her eyes. So having her talk about her dreams and wishes, along with the sadness and difficulties she’s endures is that much more emotional when the viewer’s attention is locked on those big bright eyes of hers. Whether she’s telling us about how she dearly wants her own room, or how difficult moments of her upbringing have been, we immediately feel that much more honesty and emotion by looking her right in the eye as she speaks.

If you’ve ever held a paintbrush, this film will sing you a special song. It spends a lot of time focusing on the way Inocente works, as opposed to focusing on just the work itself. Time and again we’re given moments of fluid brushstrokes, dripping paint, and the inner peace that comes from hovering over a canvas.

What that attention to her medium does is spell out how a girl who has been on the move since she arrived in America – and living in some pretty terrible conditions – could still be so full of joy and beauty. Watching her work, you sense the way she finds peace and happiness in it – a true respite from the things she doesn’t like in the world. She openly wishes people could see the world the way she does. Perhaps if they did they’d understand there was more to someone than meets the eye.

INOCENTE is a beautiful tale of struggle and creative energy. It’s a brief glimpse into the life of a girl who inspires everybody she meets and who is destined for some truly great things. We live in an age where so many are ready to collapse in upon themselves when things start getting tough. Contrary to that attitude, INOCENTE wants us to keep our heads up…to look around at the beauty that surrounds us…and from that beauty find the strength to gather ourselves, and move forward.

INOCENTE plays Sunday April 29th – 7:00pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox, again on Monday April 30th – 6:30pm at The Lightbox, and once more on Friday May 4th – 11am at The ROM. (official website)