Penelope Jagessar Chaffer

2010 Mom on a Mission

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer is the multi award winning documentary filmmaker behind Toxic Baby™, writer and children’s environmental health advocate. She is the first black, female director to be nominated for a British Academy Award.

Born in London, of Trinidadian parentage, she started her career at the BBC, before moving to Channel 4. Her first British Academy Award Nomination came for her debut film, “Me and My Dad” which followed Penelope back to Trinidad as she confronted her father, a former high flying magistrate (the youngest magistrate in the British Commonwealth) who was sent to prison for bribery and corruption. The Times called it “a unique record of dignity and regret” and likened it to “something Tolstoy would have written.”

She has directed several other well received pieces of work including “Shakespeare’s Stories” for the BBC, which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2006. She has won over 10 awards for her work with the BBC and Channel 4, including 5 gold national and international Promax awards and is a double BAFTA, Royal Television Society and Grierson (British Documentary Awards) nominee. A documentary auteur, her films display a singularly unique perspective on the world we live in, with The Observer newspaper calling her work “a joy to watch.”

Penelope is an author for Toxipedia (the wiki site for toxic chemicals, environmental health and toxicology,) contributes to several blogs and writes for publications around the world. She gave a TED talk at the inaugural TEDWomen conference in Washington DC, with Professor Tyrone Hayes, about Toxic Baby™ and the effects of chemicals on the health and development of children. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.