Renée Tajima-Peña

USA Broad Fellow, 2009

Renee Tajima-Peña is an award-winning film director, producer, and writer. In her work, she explores themes of class, race, migration, the construction of masculinity, and family to, in her words, "infiltrate a marginalized culture into mainstream consciousness." Among her films are Who Killed Vincent Chin (1988), which recounts the story of a Chinese American killed in Detroit by two white autoworkers and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature Documentary. My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha (1997), chronicles the director's cross-country road trip in search of Asian America. The "Mexico Story" of the New Americans documentary series on immigration (produced by Kartemquin Films) follows the travails of a Kansas meatpacker who is struggling to reunite his family from Mexico. Labor Women profiles a new generation of Asian American labor organizers. Skate Manzanar, a collaboration with writers from Giant Robot, is a short meditation on the memory of the World War II incarceration of Japanese American through the lens of a skateboarding trek across the Manzanar, California concentration camp site. Calavera Highway follows her husband, Armando Pena, as he carries his mothers ashes back to South Texas. Tajima-Pena's film have exhibited at international film festivals including Cannes, New Directors/ New Films, San Francisco, Sundance, and Toronto, and at the Whitney Biennial, Museum of Modern Art, Redcat, and retrospectives of work at Flaherty and the Virginia Film Festival. Tajima-Pena received her BA from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1980. She is a professor and graduate director of the Social Documentation Program (Soc Doc) at UC Santa Cruz.

Portrait photo courtesy Tyrone Turner

Calavera Highway, 2008; film poster designed by Hyun Yu; photo courtesy the artist



Awards & Recognitions

  • Alpert Award in the Arts, 2004
  • International Documentary Association Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award, 1988, 2005
  • Rockefeller Foundation Film/video Fellowship, 1990, 1994
  • Dupont Columbia University Award, 1991
  • Peabody Award, 1989
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 2011