Carved from the Heart

A portrait of grief, healing, and community
Year Released
Film Length(s)
30 mins
Remote video URL


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.

Featured review

A powerful film about both the impact of substance abuse and addictions on families and communities and the potential for recovery and healing.
Robert Lindsey
President, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence


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.

The film 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.

Recommended by educators, counselors and providers as a tool for courses and programs in:

Education /Teacher Training

Addiction and Rehabilitation Studies

Art Therapy

Sociology/ Anthropology

Native American Studies

Counseling and Mental Health Programs

Suicide and Violence Prevention

Alcohol/Drug Prevention and Treatment

Veterans Programs/Women's Shelters

Restorative Justice, Diversity/Equity Centers

Human and Student Services

Hospices and Grief Support


Serves the dual purpose of artistic expression and communal healing. Marsden is an inspiring example.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco Bay Guardian
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
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
A powerful and engaging film that promotes linking creativity to healing and building resilience. Recommended for groups and programs working with veterans and their families.
Richard Burton
Registered Drama Therapist, LMFT, CPRP
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, Native Wellness and Healing Institute
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, Masters Addiction Counselor
A gut-wrenching journey into the heart of a man and a community.
J. Carlson
Video Librarian
The grief and mourning brought by an untimely death that forced many to reevaluate their lifestyles are presented insightfully and with thought provoking cinematic style.
Minnie Two Shoes
Aboriginal Voices

Awards and Screenings

Sundance Film Festival
Best Short Documentary, American Indian Film Festival
Best of Show, Best Short Documentary, Red Earth Film Festival
Best Documentary Under 30 Minutes, Dreamspeakers Festival
Elda Hartley Film Award, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Network
Community-Based Suicide Prevention Training
National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics
Alaska Council on Prevention, Prevention Symposium

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Resources for Educators

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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