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 Asian America 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 American identity, and “Asian Americans,” the ground-breaking 5-hour docuseries about the Asian American experience through the lens of immigration, race, empire, identity, and culture.
Renee's other projects on the Asian American experience include the May 19 Project, a series of 14 short videos on the legacy of Asian American Pacific Islander solidarity with other communities of color, produced with the writer Jeff Chang in collaboration with award-winning independent filmmakers, “Labor Women,” a profile 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, New York Film Festival, Sundance, and the Whitney Biennial. She has been honored with two Peabody Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Broad Fellowship, and the Alpert Award in the Arts. She is the recipient a some two 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.