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2022 Honors Renee Tajima-Peña

Renee Tajima-Peña is an Academy Award nominated filmmaker and multi-media producer. Her films, including Who Killed Vincent Chin?, My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha, Calavera Highway, Skate Manzanar, Labor Women, No Más Bebés, explore themes of immigration, race, ethnicity, gender, and social justice. She was series producer/showrunner of PBS’s Asian Americans, a ground-breaking 5-hour docuseries collaboration of Asian American filmmakers, scholars, community, and public media. Tajima-Peña’s films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, the Whitney Biennial, and venues around the world.

Tajima-Peña also produces online media projects on the history of Japanese American incarceration and resistance. Building History 3.0 is an interactive documentary and video game-based learning project on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. In 2016 she co-founded the Nikkei Democracy Project, a multi-media collective that uses the power of the Japanese American imprisonment story to expose current threats to constitutional rights. 

At UCLA she is a Professor of Asian American Studies, the Director of the Center for EthnoCommunications, and the holder of the Alumni and Friends of Japanese American Ancestry Endowed Chair. She teaches social documentary production and the history of Asian American cinema to graduate and undergraduate students. Tajima-Peña was previously Professor of Film & Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz, where she launched the first Graduate Program in Social Documentation.

As a writer, Tajima-Peña was at one time the only Asian American woman film critic writing for a nationally-read publication, The Village Voice. She was also a cultural commentator for National Public Radio and the editor of the politics & culture magazine, Bridge: Asian American Perspectives. Since the 1980s, she has written widely on Asian screen images, Asian American independent cinema, and race and documentary filmmaking.

Renee wrote the founding grant for the Center for Asian American Media (formerly National Asian American Telecommunications Association), and she was active in the formation of the Independent Television Service and A-Doc/Asian American Documentary Network.



Renee Tajima-Peña