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photo Carved from the Heart
A New Day Film
By Ellen Frankenstein
and Louise Brady

After Stan Marsden lost his son to a cocaine overdose, he was at first incapacitated by grief, but a year later Stan, who is an Alaskan Tsimpsean wood carver, decided to create a totem pole in his son's memory. Before he was done, the pole had become a communal project, with the entire town of Craig taking part. Carved from the Heart intertwines the process of carving and erecting the Healing Heart totem pole with the participants' stories of personal loss, grief, substance abuse, suicide and violence.

This powerful film explores questions of death and dying, family relationships and parenting, domestic violence, and the impact of the war in Vietnam on veterans and their families. It also acknowledges the intergenerational grief growing out of the rapid changes in lifestyle, and the interruptions to the passing on of tradition and knowledge within Alaska Native and American Indian communities like Craig.

But, most importantly, the film demonstrates the enormous power of mutual support, culture, and ceremony in enabling a community to face tragedy, provide support to its members, and find a path to community healing.

Carved from the Heart was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding from the Institute of the Noetic Sciences, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the Klukwan Heritage Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the City of Craig, Seven Circles Coalition, and many individuals and Southeast Alaskan community organizations. It was sponsored by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

30 minutes
© 1997
Purchase $225 DVD
Order No. QA-373

"The audience for this film is vast: high school students, counselors and their patients, community workers, Native American organizations and — hopefully — the general public. A powerful video, not soon to be forgotten. Highly recommended. Editor's choice." Four Stars, Video Librarian

"An extraordinary and sensitive video that emphasizes the healing power of ritual, the strength that emerges from support, and the unique ways individuals grieve." Kenneth Doka, PhD, Hospice Foundation of America

"A realistic portrayal of a Native community dealing with traumatic problems in a positive and unified way. It is 'healing' just viewing this video." Billy Rodgers, Director, University of Oklahoma Health Promotion

"Moving and therapeutic...speaks of ritual, connection, catharsis, confession, meaning-making, and many other features of healthy coping." Margaret Baim, Harvard Medical School

Awards & Conference Screenings
Sundance Film Festival
Best of Show, Red Earth Film Competition
Best Documentary Short, American Indian Film Festival
Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Network
National Council on Family Relations Media Awards

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Grief in America: A comprehensive, multi-ethnic perspective on the ways Americans deal with grief and loss in all their forms.

Surviving Death: Seven people from a variety of cultural backgrounds speak openly about how they have been affected by the death of someone close to them, and about the ways they have found to survive their loss.

Inner Views of Grief: Five young adults eloquently describe their reactions to the sudden, sometimes violent death of a parent, sibling, or friend.

Encounters with Grief: Three bereaved people describe their losses and the emotional upheaval which followed, and offer moving perspectives on recovery.


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Study Guide

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website