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From Death’s Door to Cannes Film Festival

By Nicholas Markart

In 2019, Steve Hilfiker received news that his heart was failing - and fast. His only chance for survival was a heart transplant. Today, in 2022, Steve and director Nicholas Markart are at Cannes International Film Festival screening their short documentary, “Stoneheart: An Undying Gift”.

Promotional poster for the short documentary, “Stoneheart: An Undying Gift”

The name ‘Stoneheart’ comes from the rare heart disease that nearly took Steve’s life: cardiac sarcoidosis. This disease gradually turns the heart to stone through the hardening of muscle tissue. There is a known cure for the disease, but no reliable method of early detection. As a result, most cases aren’t discovered until it is too late. Nicholas Markart and Steve Hilfiker are working hard to change that by raising awareness.

“We are currently expanding our short film into a feature length documentary that tells the stories of sarcoidosis patients on an international level,”Markart said. The director and producer duo have been filming interviews with patients and experts in Berlin for the past week, and have more interviews planned when they return to the United States. “Meeting people who have gone through similar struggles as Steve has been a moving experience, and each of their stories are so personal and unique. Our hope is that by telling these stories, that we will convince lawmakers around the world to fund research for a method of early detection. The goal here is to save lives.”

Just over one year ago, Steve was knocking on death’s door. Now, he is celebrating his film’s success and working hard toward a newfound purpose.

“Stoneheart: An Undying Gift” is screening at the American Pavilion at Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday, May 25th. For more information on Steve’s story, visit

Still image from the feature length version of the documentary, which was shot in Berlin last week. This image features Helene Frank, who is currently battling the same disease.

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