Carved from the Heart

Director: Ellen Frankenstein

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Grieving the loss of his son to a drug overdose, a Tsimpsean wood carver from the northern coast decides to create a totem pole in his honor. Carved from the Heart follows the coming together of an entire community in Craig, Alaska, to create culture and healing out of grief and loss. Qatuwas: People Gathering Together documents a historic journey that took place in 1993 when crews from thirty different tribal nations paddled hundreds of miles through the waterways of the Northwest coast to a remarkable gathering in Bella, Bella, British Columbia. For thousands of years, the great ocean-going canoe sustained the cultural and spiritual traditions of coastal First Nations in what is now the U.S. and Canada. However, this century saw the near disappearance of these sacred vessels until, in the 1980s, a collective revival of ancient maritime culture produced several cedar-carved canoes. Totem Talk, combining humor, sophisticated computer animation, and live action, follows three urban Native youths through a mystical journey during which a traditional totem pole comes to life. Raven, Frog, and Bear, in quirky and endearing ways, offer lessons and kinship to the kids. The film ends with the totem maker discussing his work and relationship to tradition.

— Heather Rae

Screening Details

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