Catch UCSC prof's awardwinning film on PBS this month

Director Renee Tajima-Pena.

The film Calavera Highway, an award-winning saga of a Mexican American family, debuts on public television this month.

The feature-length documentary by director Renee Tajima-Peña, an associate professor of community studies, tells the story of seven brothers grappling with troubling questions about their family's past following the death of their mother.

Calavera Highway ("Skeleton" Highway) follows the filmmaker's husband Armando and his brother Carlos as they carry their mother's ashes back to South Texas and reunite with their far-flung brothers. The film traces the family odyssey as the Peñas learn why their mother was an outcast and what happened to their father, who disappeared during "Operation Wetback," the 1954 U.S. government program that deported more than 1 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The film uncovers more hard truth than even Armando could expect.

Calavera Highway was named the best feature documentary during the San Diego Latino Film Festival in March. It also received the award for best long-form television documentary during the San Francisco International Film Festival and just won the best drama documentary award during DocuFest, the Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival.

A Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker, Tajima-Peña also directed the 1989 Academy Award-nominated film Who Killed Vincent Chin? Her 1997 film, My America...Or Honk If You Love Buddha, was an award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival. She is a founding faculty member and graduate director in the UCSC graduate program in Social Documentation, where she teaches documentary film making and video production. Her work focuses on Asian American and immigrant communities, media, and social change.


Calavera Highway will air September 18 at 9:30 p.m. on KCET in Los Angeles and on September 28 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS in San Diego during public television's Point of View documentary series.