The next time you complain about how hot or cold it is, be sure you watch the upcoming documentary on the Donner-Reed party called “Dead of Winter: The Donner Party” on The Weather Channel. An advanced screening took place at the Plaza Movie Theater on Tuesday, November 17 in Atlanta was hosted by Executive Producer John Joseph, who is also Head of Original Programming at The Weather Channel. No pun intended but it’s a trip worth taking.
If you’ve ever watched any Weather Channel documentary, you come to expect a certain quality and cognizance in the story subject. As conceived by The Weather Company, a division of The Weather Channel, it does not disappoint on these levels. However, this true story is still fascinating some 168 years later.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Donner-Reed party, a group of 87 Americans set out from Illinois to California to seek a better life as most did during that time. Due to poor planning and bad luck, the George Donner and James Reed families were exposed to some of the harshest weather conditions that changed their lives and ultimately took 48. Laid out in chapters through first-person narratives for each leg of the journey, this is not only a story of perseverance and determination, but also cannibalism. The extreme heat and overpowering cold became a central part of their journey, as did the desert and mountains. Don’t think this is a sensational piece but a story needing to be told over and over in order to put into perspective what humans can and sometimes due when faced to adversities beyond their control.
Without the modern amenities of the 21st century such as the internet, television or radio, the pioneer spirit was in full effect. They relied on their wits and the trust of others, which ultimately became their demise. They had limited to no knowledge of the weather, especially when it pertained to what lie ahead of them in the Sierra Nevada. How harsh and unforgiving the land of America can be is well documented and remains that way to this day. Their limited knowledge of the trail they were to travel getting to their destination, having to construct their own road without proper tools but using sheer sweat to attain their goal. And ultimately a fool’s trust of the word of others to get them to where they needed to be, depending upon a complete stranger to be their guide when there was no intention on fulfilling their word.
This production is a combined talent of The Weather Company’s President David Clark, Producer Raymond Bridgers, Director Douglas Glover and the Thinkfactory Media (“Hatfields & McCoys” “The Hook Up” “White Lightning”), and the contribution of Tom Niziol of the Weather Channel.
This new version of the Donner-Reed party is an eye-opening, in-depth story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Make sure you check out the weather Channel when it airs on Friday, November 27, with additional airing nights on November 28 and 29.