Renee Tajima-Peña

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Renee Tajima-Peña
Renee Tajima-Peña.jpg
Born1958 (age 59-60)
Chicago, Illinois, US
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, US
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationDocumentary filmmaker, Professor
Notable workWho Killed Vincent Chin?; No Más Bebés; My America... or Honk If You Love Buddha

Renee Tajima-Peña is an American filmmaker whose work focuses on immigrant communities, race, gender and social justice. Her directing and producing credits include the documentaries Who Killed Vincent Chin?, No Más Bebés, My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha, Calavera Highway, Skate Manzanar, and Labor Women.


Tajima-Peña attended John Muir High School in Altadena, California, and later received her bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard University's Radcliffe College, where she majored in East Asian Studies and sociology. While at Harvard, she was chairperson of the United Front Against Apartheid.[1]

Tajima-Peña has been deeply involved in the Asian American independent film community as an activist, writer, and filmmaker. She was the first paid director at Asian Cine-Vision in New York and a founding member of the Center for Asian American Media (formerly National Asian American Telecommunications Association). She also founded the Asian American International Video Festival.[2] Additionally, she was a film critic for The Village Voice, a cultural commentator for National Public Radio, and the editor of Bridge: Asian American Perspectives.


Tajima-Peña began filmmaking out of a desire for activism and political expression.[3] Growing up in the 1970s, she was heavily influenced by the Asian American movement, the Civil Rights movement, and others. Tajima-Peña later turned her interest toward filming activism among young Asian American laborers. This turned into the project Labor Women.

Teaching career[edit]

In 2013, Tajima-Peña was appointed Professor of Asian American Studies and the Alumni and Friends of Japanese American Ancestry Endowed Chair at UCLA. She also directs the Center for EthnoCommunications at UCLA, housed in the Asian American Studies Center with a teaching component in the Asian American Studies Department.[4] Tajima-Peña previously served as the Graduate Director of the Masters Program in Social Documentation as Professor of Film and Digital Media, at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


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 films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art, New Directors/New Films Festival, Redcat, San Francisco International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto International Film Festival, and the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial.

Her documentaries have been broadcast around the world, including BBC, CBC Canada, SBS Australia, Tokyo Broadcasting System, VPRO Netherlands, ZDF Germany, ABC, Home Box Office, Oxygen, Lifetime Television, the Sundance Channel, and PBS.[5][6] In 2009 she won a Fellow Award from United States Artists.[7]

Selected filmography[edit]

  • "No Más Bebés" (director, producer)
  • "Whatever It Takes" (executive producer)
  • "Calavera Highway" (director, producer, writer)
  • "The New Americans: Mexico Story" (PBS)
  • "My Journey Home" (executive producer, director)
  • "Skate Manzanar" (director, cinematographer)
  • "Labor Women" (producer, director, cinematographer)
  • "The Last Beat Movie" (director, producer, writer)
  • "My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha" (producer, director, writer)
  • "The Best Hotel on Skid Row" (producer, director, writer)
  • "Jennifer’s in Jail" (Lifetime Television)
  • "Declarations: All Men Are Created Equal?" (producer)
  • "What Americans Really Think of the Japanese" (Fujisankei)
  • "Yellow Tale Blues"
  • "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" (director, producer)

Current work[edit]

Her recent works include a documentary and a transmedia project. No Mas Bebés is a documentary about the sterilization of Mexican-origin women at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and 70s. It premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival and was broadcast on the PBS documentary series Independent Lens. Tajima-Peña's transmedia project is an interactive history documentary, Heart Mountain 3.0, which uses the Minecraft video game.


  1. ^ "Rene Tajima-Peña: Profile". Google Books.
  2. ^ "Asian American International Video Festival". 2016.
  3. ^ "Political Filmmaking: Talking with Renee Tajima-Peña". EBSCOhost. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  4. ^ "UCLA Welcomes Professor Renee Tajima-Pena". UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
  5. ^ Archived 2007-11-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ IMDb
  7. ^ United States Artists Official Website