White Thunder, directed by native Newfoundlander Victoria King, is a gripping account of that tragic adventure and an exquisite tribute to an early film pioneer. Born in 1903, Frissell grew up on Manhattan's moneyed Upper East Side and studied at Yale. Caught up in the early fad for home movies and mentored by renowned documentarian Robert Flaherty, Frissell quickly grasped the potential of the emerging genre. In 1921 he attended a lecture by Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, who had established medical outposts along the isolated Labrador coast. Frissell went to work with Grenfell and was overwhelmed by the stark beauty of the landscape. With two successful documentaries (The Lure of Labrador and The Swilin Racket) under his belt, he secured the backing of Paramount Pictures to make a feature sound film. Frissell and his large crew hauled heavy camera and sound equipment to the rolling ice floes of the North Atlantic. The legendary Bob Bartlett (captain of Robert E. Pearys expeditions to the North Pole) plays himself, working alongside the local sealers and American actors. Tragically, with the explosion, the shot-on-location melodrama turned into one of Hollywoods worst disasters.
White Thunder explores Frissell's fascinating legacy, integrating astonishing footage from The Viking, as well as his earlier documentaries, to present evidence of a remarkable filmmaking talent.