The Gates of Heaven

Details: 2004, 2 mins, Digibeta


Can a carp jump a waterfall to become a dragon? What stops us from becoming what we want to be?

A legend says that carp able to leap over the Dragon Gate would become dragons. Several waterfalls and cataracts in China are believed to be the location of the Dragon Gate. This legend is an allegory of the drive and efforts needed to overcome obstacles. The text for this film is based on a Chinese myth found in the writings of Nichiren Diashonin ‘The Dragon Gate’, with a line based on ‘Return to Love’ by Marrianne Williamson.

Jose Abel Prize for Gates of Heaven


Awarded at Cinanima, Espino Portugal, 2005 – Jose Abel Prize for best animation in a European film


  • Read the review in the Asian Reporter on ‘Gates of Heaven’ (October 11, 2005). The link opens a PDF. “…Powerful beyond measure…painterly and mystical…an intense little film…leaves an impression that lasts well beyond viewing…”
  • BBC Film Network (listed no.1 on the Industry Panel’s Favourites in September 2006). Add your own review if you are a member.
  • Have a look at the comments on YouTube, and add one of your own if you like. “…profound spiritual inspiration…”
  • Reviewed on Animation Blogg by Ian Lumsden. “…there is a mystical quality to the whole movie…”
  • Mentioned in PingMag, online design magazine based in Tokyo. “...I found Lucy Lee’s “The Gate of Heaven,” a 2-minute animation with beautiful Asian motifs with oil-paint-like touch, particularly unforgettable.”
  • The First Post – “I thought you might like to know that your lovely film, Gates of Heaven received the most hits of all the shorts and trailers that were in the cinema last week. We would love to show it again some time. Many thanks, Alex

Screenwriter: Lucy Lee
Text adapted from: Nichiren Diashonin 1279, Marianne Williamson 1996
Narator: Margaret Robertson
Composer & Sound Design: Sam Sutton
Editor: Lucy Lee
Art Direction & Painting: Lucy Lee
Directed & Animated: Lucy Lee
Commissioned by Chapter for Experimentica ’04 with the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Made at Instinct Media 2004, produced by Lucy Lee
Thanks to: Sylvie Bringas & Hyun-Joo Kim


Experimentica – Cardiff

Birds Eye View – London
Bimini – Latvia
Festival of Cinema and Technology – worlwide
Zlinfest – Czeck Republic
Corta! Porto Int. Short Film Fest. – Portugal
Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Fest.
Anima Mundi – Rio de Janeiro & São Paulo
Edinburgh Film Fest – McLaren Animation
Golden Lion Film Festival – Swaziland
Open Cinema Centre – St Petersburg
0110 Digital Film Festival – New Delhi & Bombay
Super Shorts Online Festival – London
Cimanima – Portugal
Multimedia Audiovisual Film Festival Warsaw – Poland
Tindirindus, Vilnius – Lithuania
PISS Fest! Zonker Films – Portland
ROSHD International Film Festival, Tehran – Iran
Tehran International Short Film Festival – Iran
Where is the Love Festival, Bucharest – Romania
Alter-Native International Film Festival – Romania
G-Screen, Glasgow – UK
Ancorage International Film Festival – Alaska
Bilbao Fim Festival – Spain
International Film Festival Krakow, Etiuda & Anima – Poland

Kino Film, Manchester – UK
RFAF – Bosnia & Herzegovina
Halloween Short Film Festival – London
Spiritual Film Festival – India
Stuttgart – Germany
Corona – Czech Republic
Zagreb – Croatia
OneDotZero – London
Amiens International Film Festival – France
Chicago International Childrens Film Festival
NAF – Neum Animated Film Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Other screenings
  • Keep it Reel – London
  • Poetry Film Night – London
  • National Gallery – London, short before the feature ‘Andrey Rublev’ by A. Tarkovsky – 2011
Sales, Distribution, Broadcast and Listings
  • The Short List – have bought the rights for ‘The United States of America and its territories and possessions’ for period of 3 years (ending March 2009)
  • HDFest movies online
  • Distributed by the British Film Council
  • UK Short Film Database
  • BBC Film Network (listed no.1 on the Industry Panel’s Favourites in September 2006)

The fish were filmed on mini DV then broken down as single frames, hand painted over each frame in both Photoshop and then Painter. Then strung together again as a ‘9 frame dissolving’ sequence. The waterfall was done the same way, but then laid over a scan of an ink painting on canvas. Mist effects are dissolving png layers in After Effects. The birds are hand drawn on paper, scanned then hand painted in both Photoshop and then Painter.
The whole film including pulling the idea into shape, production, sound and post production took just 6 weeks.
The sound was written recorded and mixed by Sam Sutton at

Film Stills

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