The Donner Party (2009 film)

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The Donner Party (2009) theatrical release poster

The Donner Party is a 2009 period drama film written and directed by T.J. Martin, and distributed by First Look International. It is based on the true story of the Donner Party, an 1840s westward traveling group of settlers headed for California. Becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with food increasingly scarce, a small group calling themselves "The Forlorn Hope" turned to cannibalism. The Forlorn was the working title for the film.[1]


As well as being Martin's directorial debut, it was production company Anacapa Entertainment's first feature film.[2] It premiered at the Austin Film Festival on October 23, 2009,[3] with a DVD release three months later on January 26. Shooting was swift, with principal photography at the Donner Pass, California taking only 12 days.[4][5] Originally, the work had a higher budget, with greater use of child stars and a longer shooting schedule. The original production company pulled funding for the project, so several changes were made. The title change was a marketing choice by the distributor.[6]

The soundtrack was done by the Aspiro Choir under Mary Amond O'Brian.


The film opens with the text explaining the Donner Party and how did end up in the terrible situation of passing the cutoff.



  • Crispian Belfrage – Patrick Dolan
  • Catherine Black – Ann Fosdick
  • Jamie Anne Allman – Eleanor Eddy
  • Jack Kyle – Milt McCutchen
  • Cary Wayne Moore – Jay Fosdick
  • Alison Haislip – Mary Graves
  • Mara LaFontaine – Sarah Foster
  • John A. Lorenz – Luis

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Voeller, Carey R. ""A man is a fool who prefers poor California beef to human flesh": (Re)Definitions of Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century US Donner Party Literature." Western American Literature 44, no. 3 (2009): p. 219. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  2. ^ "Production Begins on Anacapa Entertainment 'The Forlorn.'" Marketwire (press release). April 26, 2008. (via Lexis-Nexis)
  3. ^ Oh, Steph. "Austin Film Festival Line-Up Released". Austinist. September 25, 2009 (via Lexis-Nexis).
  4. ^ Brown, Jenn. "AFF Review: The Donner Party". Slackerwood. November 2, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  5. ^ "The Donner Party". First Look Studios. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  6. ^ Johnson, Kristin. "Director responds". February 8, 2010. Donner Blog. Retrieved March 16, 2010.

External links[edit]