Celine Parreñas Shimizu is an American award-winning filmmaker and scholar whose work examines the challenges of being part of multiple social and personal categories.
Celine Parreñas Shimizu was born on December 28, 1969, to refugee Filipino parents in the US. While her parents worked two jobs to support their family, they encouraged their daughtersto pursue educations, and all three earned doctorates. Celine’s degrees were in different fields – a B.A. in Ethnic Studies, an M.F.A. in Film Directing and Production, and a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature. Her degrees, her film projects, and her academic work show an intersectional nature that tackles public and private identities that cut across gender, ethnic, racial, and economic lines.
As of 2016, Shimizu holds a full professorship in the departments of Cinema and Sociology at San Francisco State University. When asked in an interview by PaksyPackis-Chengwhy she studies race, sexualities, and gender, Shimizu pointed out that power is important to all of these issues, both personal and social. As a professor, Shimizu said that she wants to help students struggle with these issues as a way to empower them to learn or apply theory not merely to literature and films but to themselves and their interactions with the world.
Shimizu is the author of many books and articles. Her bookThe hypersexuality of race: performing Asian/American women on screen and scene won the 2007 Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. The book advanced a controversial theory of “productive perversity” that argued against simple charges of negative sexualizationand in favor of listening to women of color in all film, video, and theater roles so their reasons for their performances can be fully understood.
Similarly, Shimizu has directed, written, and edited severalfilms. Birthrate: Mothering Across Difference won the prize for Best Feature Documentary at the Big Mini DV Film Festival in 2009. The film is an intimate examination of how motherhood transforms women’s lives and their place in the world through three interviews.
Motherhood was also a very personal reality for Shimizu. She and her husband, Daniel P. Shimizu, had two sons, Bayon and Lakas. Lakas died when he was only 10 years old. This coincided with a change in the couple’s work life where she was supposed to take her turn to be the one to commute to work. In the aftermath of their son’s death Shimizu did a powerful thing for herself and her family: she realized that she needed to find a new job so that her commute wasn’t so long. In short, she saw the multiple ways her private life and career interconnected and worked through the very challenges she was documenting and studying.
Shimizu’s work does not only look at women’s lives. She has lectured and written articles and books about the portrayal of Asian men in popular media as well. Her ability to expandher study of gender and sexuality to all humans is encouraging to see because,as she rightly points out time and again, gender, sexuality, and power apply to all of us. That’s a realization that could change the world.