Zhen Li

2023 Princess Grace Award
Nominated by: California Institute of the Arts

Stephen Hillenburg Animation Honor


Zhen Li is a Chinese-American animation filmmaker, currently pursuing her MFA in experimental animation at CalArts. She worked years as an architectural designer and live-action line producer before she started making animation. Developing a body of narrative work sympathetic to the in-between, she ruminates over themes of intimacy and misalignment, and often expresses so with a visceral mixture of traditional methods of animation, live action, and a heavy spatial instinct. Her first-year film fur (2022) has screened in festivals such as Sundance, Annecy, Zagreb and Ottawa, and won awards including the Grand Jury Prize at Seattle International Film Festival. Zhen is currently working on her thesis film that takes place in two recreated hometowns, one of which her own, and both in the process of disappearance.