Houston native’s film ‘Soft Animals’ showing at Sundance

Animator Renee Zahn uses her skill in painting and drawing to create rich textures and bring abstract forms to life.

By Laura Rice & Caroline CovingtonJanuary 25, 2022 1:08 pm, ,

Houston native Renee Zahn‘s animated film “Soft Animals” is showing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Zahn, a Chinese American animator and filmmaker, found herself working in film after years studying what she considers more traditional art forms like drawing and painting. She says her work often explores themes of nature, sexuality and identity.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A still from "Soft Animals" by Renee Zhan, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

“I grew up watching old cartoons and films and always was really, really loved the idea of animation and making movies. … Most of my time in high school was spent – I did a lot of drawings for the the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a big thing in Houston.”

“I always wanted to make movies … but I was kind of very shy and didn’t want to talk to anybody. So, but I realized that I could make films alone in my bedroom through animation. So that’s kind of how I got got into it. It was kind of the perfect blend between my painting background and making films.”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Another still from "Soft Animals."

“The film ‘Soft Animals’ is about two people who, two ex-lovers, who sort of have this chance encounter at a train station. And when they meet, there are sort of almost forgotten memories and feelings and emotions toward each other as they come to the surface. And it’s erupted in an almost animalistic, I don’t know – waves of of emotion.”

“New mediums are popping up and new voices are being given a chance to be heard. So yeah, I think it’s a very exciting time in animation and film.”

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