Fairport native Andrea Nix Fine nominated for Oscar

11:03 AM, Feb 22, 2013

Inocente, a young, homeless artist, is the subject of the Fines' nominated film. (Sean Fine)/

Written By Leah Stacy


Academy Awards coverage starts at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC, WHAM-TV (Channel 13). The host this year is Seth MacFarlane. If you want to watch with a movie-loving crowd, there are two party options.
• The Little, 240 East Ave., is hosting the RochOscar Party. The theater stepped up as soon as George Eastman House said renovations to its Dryden Theatre would take too long for the museum’s annual party to take place. The Little will serve hors d’oeuvres and dessert, with a complimentary Champagne toast. Other food and drinks will be available for purchase. Nuts and Bolts Comedy Improv will host the event. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the big screen will light up at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40. Call (585) 258-0262 or go to thelittle.org.
• High Falls Film Festival also is hosting a party at Rochester Plaza Hotel’s State Street Bar & Grill, starting at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $6 and includes free parking and a complimentary glass of beer or wine. Go to highfallsfilmfestival.com.

Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t the only Fairport native up for an Academy Award Sunday.

Andrea Nix Fine, who, with her husband, makes documentaries, is nominated for the film Inocente.

It’s the couple’s second nomination in five years. (Hoffman, who won a best actor Oscar for the title role in Capote, is nominated for his supporting role in The Master.)

It’s funny how many people say, ‘Oh my god, I could never work with my husband or wife,’ ” she said in a conference call that also included her husband, Sean Fine. “But I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

This isn’t the easiest business, and to have each other and the end of the day when the chips fall makes us feel lucky,” Sean Fine said, from their Washington, D.C.-area home.

Inocente has swept awards at six festivals as well as receiving praise from critics. It follows the story of a 15-year-old homeless girl in San Diego who is an artist and an illegal immigrant. Through painting, Inocente overcomes the darkness of her surroundings.

In addition to a theatrical release, the film will be broadcast on MTV.

In 2008, the Fines were nominated for War/Dance, which then won 2009 Emmys for best documentary and cinematography. In all, War/Dance — about child refugees in northern Uganda who find meaning through competing in the country’s music and dance festival — was honored with more than 18 awards, including the Sundance Film Festival’s award for documentary direction.

The duo’s films often deal with issues of adolescence, though it wasn’t a purposeful focus. In Inocente, the themes expand to homelessness, immigration and arts education.

At that age, you have complex feelings and emotions, but there’s a purity and honesty,” says Nix Fine. “A synopsis of the film sounds cold and clinical, but when it comes to life you see a different side and you feel.”

After the production of their last film, Life According to Sam, which chronicles a 16-year-old’s battle with progeria (a disease that makes you prematurely age), they received many emails, Sean Fine says.

Not too many people sit and listen to a kid, especially not for an hour and a half,” he says. “But we’ll get these emails saying, ‘This kid’s story made me think about my own life.’ “

And of course, those moments also come for the Fines during production.

Inocente’s story became more about reconnecting with her mother, and (her mother) told us about when she was drunk and was going to jump off a bridge with her daughter,” he says. “We get to this point where people are entrusting their stories to us and they deserve to be told as cinematically as possible, so we’re putting our all into it.”

In a moment like that, we’re riveted, and we know that’s going to be a powerful point in the film,” adds Nix Fine. “We collect the footage, but we don’t always know what we are going to use. It’s not just scene after scene. It’s a journey.”

The couple attribute much of their career success to the relationship they have — not only as business partners in Fine Films, but also as a married couple, parents to a 5- and 8-year-old and foster parents to an 18-year-old (their lead subject from War/Dance, who now attends college in the United States and stays with them during breaks and summers).

It’s not easy all the time; it’s hard,” says Nix Fine. “But it definitely gets easier over time.”

When the couple first met, they were both working for National Geographic. At first, a joint career was not an option, because they were “too ambitious and liked each other too much.”

Soon, though, they realized their filmmaking goals and styles aligned beyond competition.

It wasn’t strange to Fine, whose parents also worked together during his childhood in Washington (his father as a cinematographer, his mother an editor).

You’re working with the person whose opinion matters the most, so it pushes you to be better,” he says. “Together, we’re better because we push each other; we care more about what the other thinks of our work than being nominated.”

This weekend, Inocente, now 19, will be the couple’s guest at the Academy Awards.

For them, an Oscar win would simply be another part of the great journey and story they’re building together.

What (our win would) mean is a former homeless kid standing on that stage as millions watch,” Sean Fine says. “We’ll be in the epicenter of the arts world with a girl who would be homeless were it not for art.”

It’s a huge celebration, too,” Nix Fine says. “Everyone in my hometown should cross their fingers.”

She paused as she spoke her next few words, and Fine chimed in to finish the sentence, talking as one voice.

We do this to — tell great stories.”