Our first feature for #AAPIHeritageMonth is the Academy Award nominated filmmaker Renee Tajima- Peña. Her film work addresses pressing issues in the Asian American and the diasporic community. Her debut film as a director, Who Killed Vincent Chin? chronicles the murder and injustice of a 27-year old Chinese American, Vincent Chin; beaten to death with a baseball bat by two Detroit auto workers. The judicial aftermath of this racially charged murder led to the high profile civil rights case, due to the uprising of the Asian American community’s outrage.
Her most recent documentary No Más Bébes profiles a landmark moment in reproductive justice against forced sterilization against Mexican immigrant women in Los Angeles. Ten women sued the U.S. government (Madrigal v. Quilligan) for unwarranted sterilizations post- cesarean section births in the 1960s and 70s. On making the film, and the importance of highlighting a case that largely went under the radar throughout the years, Tajima-Peña stated that “the way the white mainstream feminist movement has framed reproductive freedom is about whether women can get abortions or reproductive health care. But reproductive justice asks if your class, race, gender and immigration status all impact whether you truly have that access and truly have the freedom to make your own decisions. That’s what this film is about. Because of their race, being working poor, being immigrants, because of language and cultural barriers these women could not exercise control of their own bodies. That was yesterday and today. Reproductive freedom is really focused on abortion because that is something middle class women have been concerned with. But for poor women and a lot of poor women of color it’s not only having the right to not have a child but to have a child and raise that child with dignity.” (CAAM’s January 25, 2016 interview with Mika Hernandez).
A native of California, Renee’s extensive portfolio includes, but is not limited to, being one of the founding members of the Center for Asian American Media, a cultural commentator for publications including NPR, and a professor in the Asian American Studies department at UCLA.