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Heaven’s Dust




A litte fable about the life of a leaf from birth, to – a new life, as dust on the back of its best friend, Wind.

Based on a story by US author Lisa Suhay, this story is designed to help children with issues like death, toxic parents, and choosing one’s reactions to events.

This story follows the life of little Leaf from his early beginnings to his apparent death, just as his toxic parent, Tree, had promised. In total contrast to the gnarled old oak, Leaf’s best friend, Wind, is pure inspiration, and uplifts Leaf by dancing with him, bringing sea breezes, exotic fragrances, news and amazing descriptions of faraway places.

Soon little Leaf is bursting with joy. Old Tree grows weary of all this enthusiasm. It informs its joyful sprout that soon it will be dust. Duly subdued, a confused and frightened Leaf turns to Wind. His mentor and loving guide is wise and tender. It has never failed him, and it will tell the truth.

And Wind does reassure Leaf. When the time comes, Leaf soars from Tree, laughing. Finally, after a long sleep, it becomes Heaven’s dust, travelling on the back of Wind, bringing joy wherever a tiny speck lands.

The initial offering will have the author, Lisa Suhay, as a narrator since she is a trained actress. It is a tale for every culture, and while it begins with an English voice-over, I plan to translate it into many local languages in Southern Africa and extend its reach to the rest of Africa, bringing it to even the humblest home in the most remote area. (Watch from 15:30)

The story takes place in a beautiful garden, which does have a distinct South African flavour, with its precast concrete fence, a passing taxi (‘oontz oontz oontz’) and of course, a decent number of Hadeda ibises. In our minds we visit the whole world (and even space!) with Wind and Leaf, sometimes accompanied by music to evoke different cultures, where this can be managed.

The 11 minute, multimedia short will combine stop-motion with occasional frame-by frame pencil crayon drawing. The garden, tree and leaves will be rendered using paper sculpture with Tyvek or other paper (the mountain for instance isn’t handled as much as the Tree, and can be formed of ordinary paper. The lilies will be made as origami. Hmm. Maybe the hadeda ibises as well…

For added interest the Tyvek paper (which comes in white only) will be tinted using ‘layers’ in Photoshop. I have used paper sculpture before in ‘Tallulah (a very small love story)‘. With an additional pencil crayon enhancement, the strokes in the background can express Wind’s direction as well as enhance emotion.

Wind as a character will be shown by animating frosted acetate shapes in Photoshop, similar to the illustration above, or using vellum, which could be very beautiful.

This is a work in progress and I look forward to showing more and more as things develop.

Target Audience

The target audience for this film has always been children aged 5 – 10. Originally, when I first found this story, AIDS orphans living in South Africa were the primary audience. A secondary, wider audience is African children generally.

There are so many child-headed households. In addition to their grieving, children who should be in school have to work wherever they can find menial tasks, to support their younger siblings. Now CoVid-19 is also taking its toll.

Sometimes grannies have to shoulder this responsibility and raise another generation when they themselves should be cared for. Perhaps the notion that one can help with a problem of this size, just with a little film, is completely ridiculous.

But my purpose is to bring some small comfort and inspiration. Vast numbers of children in South Africa stay away from school because of these burdens. But they can still be reached via TV and/or cellphones. Often they will have access via the devices of others, whether adults or older children. 

Even humble shacks often have satellite dishes or TV antennas. So, knowing that many children watch in other people’s homes, I see ordinary TV as the best way to reach these children.