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 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,” is 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.
Tajima-Peña’s newest film is "No Más Bebés," 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.
In 2008, Tajima-Peña received acclaim as the 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.
In 2004, Tajima-Peña directed an episode for the groundbreaking PBS series on immigration of “The New Americans,” a documentary miniseries that traces the journeys of this country's newest arrivals from their homelands through their first years in the United States. Her film tells the story of Pedro Flores, a Mexican immigrant who works as a meatpacker in rural Kansas to support his wife and six children in rural Mexico, and the family's tireless efforts to be reunited in the “promised land."
Tajima-Peña's films have premiered at worldwide film festivals such as Cannes, Hawaii, Hong Kong, London, New Directors/New Films, Sundance, and Toronto. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and has been awarded a USA Broad Fellowship, and the Alpert Award in the Arts.
She is currently a professor of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where she is director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and Endowed Chair in Japanese American Studies. She was a co-founder of the Social Documentation Program at UC Santa Cruz. She was formerly a cultural commentator on NPR and a film critic for The Village Voice.