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Jennifer Maytorena Taylor

Portrait of Jennifer Maytorena Taylor
Professor, Film and Digital Media
Faculty Director, Social Documentation Lab
Affiliated Faculty: Latin American and Latino Studies; Feminist Studies
Documentary film and video, social change, juvenile justice, migration, rural and small town life, Latinx and Latin American communities, education, pop culture, music, religion, politics, journalism.
Research Interests: 

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s research interests include long-form and short form filmmaking for emerging platforms, collaborative production practices, and the intersection of point-of-view storytelling and journalism. She has over two decades of experience as an award-winning filmmaker of feature and short documentary films, exploring diverse topics such as gentrification battles, Latin American Dirty Wars, Puerto Rican American Muslim hip-hop culture, families coping with mass incarceration and currently, rural and small-town life in an era of refugee crises, the opioid epidemic, and “white rage.” 

Professor Taylor’s work is regularly seen around the world through broadcast, film festivals, and theatrical screenings at venues like the Sundance, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Locarno Film Festivals, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, New York Museum of Modern Art, PBS, Sundance Channel, Al Jazeera, and NHK-Japan. 

Currently Professor Taylor is in early production on a new feature documentary called Way of Life, about the escalating battles over bodily autonomy and privacy.  

Her most recently completed verité feature For the Love of Rutland explores three years in the life of a small blue-collar town grappling with deep change in an era of refugee crises, the opioid epidemic, and extreme ideological and cultural polarization. Supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Sundance Film Music Program, For the Love of Rutland was recently named one of the “10 Most Exciting Films” at Hot Docs 2020 by Indiewire.  The film was broadcast in 2022 and 2023 as part of Season 10 of the acclaimed PBS World series America ReFramed and is currently available for streaming in Amazon Prime, Apple+TV, and the PBS website.  

Professor Taylor’s latest short film Redneck Muslim (co-directed with Mustafa Daviswas broadcast in 2020 on the PBS series POV and is currently streaming on The Atlantic magazine’s website. Other recent work includes Message To Zaire/The Talkfor national PBS (currently streaming on; Daisy and Max, a long-form documentary commissioned by Al Jazeera America; and the short Visiting Day for The Atlantic. Previous credits include the award-winning feature documentaries New Muslim Cool, broadcast nationally on the POV series on PBS; Special Circumstances for the Voces series on national PBSand Paulina, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by the Sundance Channel after a theatrical release.

Other work includes the 15-part web series Street Knowledge 2 College for, Latino Public Broadcasting, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate initiative; the Emmy Award-winning documentaryHome Front; and many other broadcast projects, short films, and co-productions. 

Professor Taylor is a Sundance Documentary Program Fellow, and has held fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, the Points North/Tribeca Film Institute, Banff Centre for the Arts, the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism, and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is a recipient of the James D. Phelan Art Award for her body of work, two Emmys, and multiple festival awards. Her work has been supported by the JustFilms/Ford Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Latino Public Broadcasting, the Sundance Documentary Fund, Fork Films, Catapult Documentary Fund, San Francisco Film Documentary Fund, Hartley Film Foundation and other leading national funders. 

Prior to coming to UC Santa Cruz, Professor Taylor worked as a research fellow and instructor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Born in Los Angeles of Mexican, Sicilian, and Irish/English heritage, she is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

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Education and Training: 
M.A. in Specialized Journalism, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
B.A., New College of California, San Francisco, CA