Renee Tajima-Peña is an Academy-Award nominated filmmaker whose work focuses on immigrant communities, race, gender and social justice. She has become a chronicler of the American scene with her documentary films “Who Killed Vincent Chin?,” the acclaimed investigation into the beating death of a Chinese American in Detroit and “My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha,” a feature-length road documentary in search of Asian America where she encounters rappers, debutantes, laborers and freedom fighters.
Her latest project is “Asian Americans,” a ground-breaking 5-hour docuseries about the Asian American experience through the lens of immigration, race, empire, identity, and culture.
Renee's other films on the Asian American experience include “Labor Women,” a profile of Jun Chong, Quynh Nguyen, and Karla Zombro, part of a new generation of young labor activists organizing immigrant workers in Los Angeles and “Skate Manzanar,” a short video collaboration with Giant Robot on the legacy of mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II through the perspective of a young Asian American skateboarder.
Her feature film "No Más Bebés," a collaboration with Virginia Espino, is a documentary about the class action lawsuit, Madrigal v. Quilligan, filed by Mexican American women who were sterilized at Los Angeles county hospital during the 1960s and 70s.
Renee received acclaim as the 2008 recipient of the Golden Gate Award for best television documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival for “Calavera Highway.” In an intimate and elegantly crafted work of cinema verité, “Calavera Highway” encompasses familial tensions, Mexican American identity, the responsibilities of fathers (and sons) and the psychic malleability of map-drawn borders. It is a sweeping family saga told against the backdrop of the Mexican American experience, as seven brothers grapple with the meaning of masculinity and fatherhood, and the nature of family ties.
Renee's work has screened at worldwide film festivals and venues such as Cannes, Hawaii, Hong Kong, London, New Directors/New Films, Sundance, and the Whitney Biennial. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and has been awarded a USA Broad Fellowship, and the Alpert Award in the Arts. She is the receipient a some 2 dozen other film awards and honors.
She is currently a professor of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where she is director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and holds an endowed chair in Japanese American studies. She was founding faculty and graduate director of the Graduate Program in Social Documentation at UC Santa Cruz. She was formerly a cultural commentator on NPR and a film critic for The Village Voice.