There was a thematic chronology, in terms of tracking Asian American history during the 20th century. There were also the different people I met along the road. The road itself was the driving thread of the whole film.
EH: What impact does film bring to the audience that other media don’t?
RTP: It’s emotional, and it evokes the human side of an issue or event. It’s not a historical text. There’s a different logic to it. In film, we’re more interested in visual storytelling. If I watch a film, I always remember the cumulative emotional impact: being immersed in a place and in people’s lives. That’s where documentary film has a lot of power.
EH: How does film influence politics?
RTP: I don’t think films create social change. I don’t see films as the driver of social change, people are. People have to be on the ground working at different levels of organizing. People organize, and they move history. I think that films can be a part of it. Films can communicate the human story. Social change depends on empathy and being able to make connections, being able to see yourself in other people, even if they are different people. That’s one of the roots of solidarity, films help to build that.
Renee Tajima-Peña received the Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Rogue Award for her “films of lasting significance and current relevance.”
Her films, “My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha” and “No Más Bebés,” were screened on the second weekend of AIFF2020’s three-week virtual film festival.
“No Más Bebés” tells of immigrant mothers who sued doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and ’70s.
A Harvard graduate in East Asian studies and sociology, Tajima-Peña is professor of Asian American studies and filmmaking at UCLA. We visited by telephone.
EH: How did you become a filmmaker?
RTP: I was a student activist in high school and college. In college I got interested in filmmaking with other activist students; we did our own videos. We decided to make videos about things we cared about. We did that as part of being activists. It was very rudimentary. Continue reading Rogue Award winner talks about her films