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One man loses his son to a cocaine overdose. Grieving, Stan Marsden, a Tsimpsean wood carver decides to create a totem pole in his son’s memory and invites the town of Craig, Alaska to help. Before he is done, the pole becomes a communal project, bringing people of diverse backgrounds and ages together. Carved from the Heart intertwines the process of carving and raising 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 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, Carved from the Heart demonstrates the enormous power of mutual support, culture, art, and ceremony in enabling a community to face tragedy, provide support to its members, and find a path to healing.
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"Moving and therapeutic. Carved from the Heart speaks of ritual, connection, carthasis, confession, meaning-making, and many other features of healthy coping." Margaret Baim, Clincial Director Center for Training in Mind/Body Medicine Harvard Medical School
"A realistic portrayal of a Native community dealing with traumatic problems in a positive and unified way. It is "healing" just viewing the video." Billy Rodgers, Director University of Oklahoma Health Promotions Program
"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, Ph.D. Senior Consultant Hospice Foundation of America
“Carved from the Heart can touch youth and adults. It explores the grief of those left behind and left out and it shows that healing is possible." Iva Greywolf, Clinical Psychologist Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
"Serves the dual purpose of artistic expression and communal healing. Marsden is an inspiring example." San Francisco Bay Guardian
"A gut-wrenching journey into the heart of a man and a community. Ellen Frankenstein's latest documentary is an emotional powerhouse (and you may have well shed a few tears). Stan Marsden is a resident of the small city of Craig, Alaska, a member of the Tsimpsean Tribe, and a master woodcarver. He is also a father who lost a son to a cocaine overdose. Unable to display his grief through traditional channels, Marsden decided that a totem pole dedicated to the memory of his son would be a way of cleansing himself. How this totem became a symbol of healing not just for a man but for an entire community is the subject of Carved from the Heart, a film which works well on a number of levels: as a look at grief counseling, a glimpse into the dark depression found in so many Native American communities, an examination of generational chasms that destroy families. The audience for this film is vast: high school students, counselors and their patients, community workers, Native American organizations, and--hopefully, if enough libraries have the funds for it--the general public. A powerful video, not soon to be forgotten." J. Carlson Video Librarian
Awards and Screenings
Sundance Film Festival
National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics
Community-Based Suicide Prevention Training
Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Network
Elda Hartley Film Award, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Best Documentary under 30 minutes, Dreamspeakers Festival
Best of Show, Best Short Documentary, Red Earth Film Festival
Best Documentary Short, American Indian Film Festival
National Council on Family Relations Media Awards
Ellen Frankenstein Ellen Frankenstein is the director of four other award-winning documentaries in the New Day collection: Miles from the Border, A Matter of Respect and No Loitering.She’s been an organizer and educator for community arts and school-based media projects from Los Angeles to Kake, Alaska and has exhibited her still photography nationally and internationally. Before becoming a full-time filmmaker and photographer, Frankenstein worked with the developmentally disabled, migrant farm workers, and the elderly. These experiences inspired her to take photographs and make documentaries to encourage people to tell their stories and participate in sharing their voice by using the technology themselves. Frankenstein has a Masters in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California. Awards and funding include a Fulbright - Hays Fellowship and grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities. Frankenstein lives in Sitka, Alaska and has helped her spouse sail a 30-foot wooden gaff-rigged ketch sail boat from Mexico to New Zealand. She is currently working on a film called, Eating Alaska. Eating Alaska is a wry odyssey into sustainable food choices through the eyes of a former vegetarian on a quest to find the "right" thing to eat on the last frontier. Ellen collaborated with Louise Brady on the creation and outreach of Carved from the Heart . Brady is a member of the Lingit Tribe of Southeast Alaska. She is a Raven (Yeil) of the Frog Clan (Kiks.adi) from the Point House (X'aaka Hit) of Sitka, Alaska (Sheet'ka Kwaan). Brady has worked in human services for years, assisting people to overcome the adversities caused by the social problems that exist in Indian Country. She strongly believes in the practice of sovereignty in Native American communities as a means to overcome these problems and continues to work to achieve sovereignty for her tribe, as a whole, and for each of its tribal citizens.
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