A sweeping story of a family of seven men grappling with the meaning of masculinity, fatherhood, and a legacy of rootless beginnings.


Regular price $459.00



GOLDEN STATE AWARD - San Francisco International Film Festival | BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY - San Diego Latino Film Festival

American Studies • Archival • Biographies • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion • Economics, Labor, & Poverty • Immigration & Border Studies • Latinx Studies • U.S. History • Gender Studies • Masculinity + Fatherhood

Date of Completion: 2010 Run Time: 88 minutes​​ | Language: English/Spanish with English subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript and Discussion Guide Director: Renee Tajima-Peña Producers: Renee Tajima-Peña & Evangeline Griego

When Armando and Carlos Pena set off to carry their mother’s ashes back to South Texas and reunite with their brothers, the road reveals more than they bargained for.  The feature documentary, CALAVERA HIGHWAY (Skeleton Highway), traces the odyssey of two brothers as they decipher their family’s story—why their mother Rosa was outcast by her own family, and what happened to their father Pedro, who disappeared during the notorious 1954 U.S. government deportation program, “Operation Wetback,” in which over a million Mexican and Mexican Americans were forced across the border. CALAVERA HIGHWAY is a sweeping story of a family of seven men grappling with the meaning of masculinity, fatherhood, and a legacy of rootless beginnings.

Duke UniversityAriel Dorfman, Walter Hines Page Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Literature  
"Calavera Highway takes us on a unique journey into the many Americas disputing the heartland and the border, and does so with energy, sophistication and a deeply literary resonance."

Los Angeles Weekly
“The best film previewed… The film is filled with affecting moments, but the most powerful is incredibly simple: In footage culled from family home movies, one of the adult sons is sitting on the sofa next to his frail, sleeping, dying mother; he simply looks at her for a while, and then drops his eyes to his hands, resting in his lap. There’s so much grief and sadness in that quick exchange, it breaks your heart.”

SF360 | Independent View
An intimate and elegantly crafted work of cinema verite, Calavera Highway encompasses universal familial tensions, Mexican-American identity, the responsibilities of fathers (and sons) and the psychic malleability of
map-drawn borders.”

Golden State Award | San Francisco International Film Festival
Best Feature DocumentarySan Diego Latino Film Festival
Silver Hugo Television Award for Best History/Biography | Chicago International Film Festival

National PBS Broadcast: “P.O.V.”

Renee Tajima-Peña is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose work focuses on the Asian American experience, and issues of race, immigration, gender, and social justice. Her films include No Más Bebés (No More Babies), the story of Mexican immigrant mothers who fought for reproductive justice after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles county hospital during the 1970s. My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha is a personal and irreverent road documentary in search of Asian American identity, In the film Calavera Highway, she turns the camera to her husband, Armando Peña, on his journey to carry his mother’s ashes back to South Texas and reunite with his fragmented family.

Tajima-Peña was series producer of PBS’s ground-breaking Asian Americans, the first ever docuseries on Asian American history, and co-producer/director of the classic documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? Her other work includes a portrait of the new generation of Asian American labor organizers, Labor Women, the “Mexico Story” of the docuseries The New Americans, and multi-media projects on the legacy of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the short collaboration with Giant Robot, Skate Manzanar, Building History 3.0, an interactive exploration of that history through Minecraft, and the production collective Nikkei Democracy Project.

Tajima-Peña’s films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Sundance Film Festival, and the Whitney Biennial with retrospectives at the Flaherty International Film Seminar and the Virginia Film Festival. She has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, USA Broad Fellowship, Alpert Award in the Arts for Film/ Video, a Peabody, and a Dupont Columbia Award. She teaches social documentary at UCLA, where she is a professor of Asian American Studies, director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and an endowed chair in Japanese American Studies. She is the founder of the Graduate Program in Social Documentation at UCSC.