Rea Tajiri

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Rea Tajiri (born 1958) is a Japanese American video artist, filmmaker and screenwriter.


Tajiri was born in Chicago, Illinois. Tajiri attended California Institute of the Arts,[1] and worked as a producer on various film and video projects in Los Angeles and New York.

Tajiri's video art has been included in the 1989, 1991, and 1993 Whitney Biennials. She has also been exhibited at The New Museum for Contemporary Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum, The Walker Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archives. Tajiri is a 2015 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige (1991) was Tajiri's personal essay documentary about the Japanese American internment. It premiered at the 1991 Whitney Biennial and won the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association. It also was awarded a Special Jury Prize: "New Visions Category" at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1992, and won "Best Experimental Video," Atlanta Film and Video Festival, 1992. In 1993 she made Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice, a documentary about the Nisei Japanese American human rights activist. Tajiri co-produced the documentary with Pat Saunders.

She partnered with Japanese Canadian author Kerri Sakamoto to write a coming-of-age story about a Japanese American girl in Chicago in the 1970s, resulting in Strawberry Fields, shot in 1994 with funding from CPB, NEA, and ITVS. The film stars Suzy Nakamura, James Sie, Chris Tashima and Takayo Fischer, and was completed in 1997, screening at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival. It also was selected to the Venice International Film Festival and won the Grand Prix at the Fukuoka Asian Film Festival.[2]

Tajiri's father, Vincent Tajiri was the photo editor for Playboy Magazine during the 1950s and 1960'; her uncle, Shinkichi Tajiri, was a prominent sculptor who resided in the Netherlands.

Tajiri continues to live and work in Philadelphia. She is currently an assistant professor at Temple University, and has taught at Ithaca College, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and SUNY Purchase.

Current career[edit]

As of fall 2008, Tajiri is teaching as an associate professor at Temple University in the Film Media Arts Department.[3]

Film characteristics[edit]


Tajiri is credited as being a groundbreaking documentary filmmaker for brilliantly weaving together different narratives, taking from found footage but also her own history and experiences.

Avant-garde Documentary

Directed by Rea Tajiri, '"Strawberry Fields" doesn't follow a straight narrative line. Instead, Tajiri opts for graceful and dreamlike forays into the collective memory of war-era Japanese Americans. By showing the audience grainy photos and films of a world that Irene can never know, director Tajiri heightens the sense of quest in this enigmatic film." Lynn Voedisch Chicago Sun Times[4]

Tajiri's Film Techniques

"Tajiri often focuses her inquiry on the representation of Asians and Asian-Americans in popular media. In Off Limits (1988), she critiques Hollywood's portrayal of the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people, juxtaposing fragments from Easy Rider with her own text to give voice to a Vietnamese character. In History and Memory (1990), Tajiri examines the construction of history and the manipulation of collective memory through a powerful pastiche of personal reminiscences and mass media images of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II." Electronic Art Intermix[5]


Tajiri has cemented herself as an important filmmaker that warrants a deeper understanding of her work and the contexts in which they exist. Her work is becoming more widely recognized and studied, becoming a vital part of the curriculum in many University's documentary and avantgarde film studies. Her work has also helped with women filmmakers and women's cinema.






  • Robot Stories 2003


  • 1992 International Documentary Association, Distinguished Achievement Award – History and Memory
  • 1992 San Francisco International Film Festival, Special Jury Award: New Visions Category -- "History and Memory"
  • 1992 Atlanta Film & Video Festival, Best Experimental Video -- "History and Memory"
  • 1998 Fukuoka Asian Film Festival, Grand Prix – Strawberry Fields


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]