Renee Tajima-Peña

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Renee Tajima-Peña (born c. 1958) is an award-winning film director and producer, notable for "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" (PBS), for which she received an Academy Award nomination, and "MY AMERICA...or Honk if You Love Buddha."[1]


Tajima-Peña was born in Chicago to Japanese American parents.[2] She was raised in Altadena, California, where she graduated from John Muir High School in the class of 1976. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies and Sociology Cum Laude, from Harvard-Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, in 1980.[3] She previously served as the Graduate Director of the Masters Program in Social Documentation a professor of film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2013, she was appointed Professor of Asian American Studies and the Alumni and Friends of Japanese American Ancestry Endowed Chair at UCLA. Tajima-Peña also directs the Center for EthnoCommunications at UCLA, housed in the Asian American Studies Center with a teaching component with the Asian American Studies Department.


Her honors include an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature Documentary, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, the Alpert Award for Film/Video, the James Wong Howe “Jimmie” Award, the Justice in Action Award, and two International Documentary Association Achievement Awards (one shared), the Media Achievement Award from MANAA, the Steve Tatsukawa Memorial Award and the APEX Excellence in the Arts Award. She has twice earned Fellowships in Documentary Film from both the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Foundation on the Arts. Her works have been broadcast around the world and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, London Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, the Whitney Biennial and many other venues.)[4][5] In 2009 she won a Fellow Award from United States Artists.[6]

Credits include:

  • "Calavera Highway" (PBS)
  • "The New Americans: Mexico Story" (PBS)
  • "My Journey Home" (PBS)
  • "Skate Manzanar" (Bellevue Art Museum)
  • "Labor Women" (PBS)
  • "The Last Beat Movie" (Sundance Channel)
  • "My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha" (PBS and Oxygen)
  • "The Best Hotel on Skid Row" (Home Box Office)
  • "Jennifer’s in Jail" (Lifetime Television)
  • "Declarations: All Men Are Created Equal?" (PBS)
  • "What Americans Really Think of the Japanese" (Fujisankei)
  • "Yellow Tale Blues"
  • "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" (PBS)

Persistent Themes[edit]

With her newest film, "Calavera Highway," and her earlier work, Tajima-Pena affirms her ongoing interest with the road as a structuring device for her documentaries.