Jack White of the film White Stripes: Under the Great White Northern Lights speaks at a press conference during the 34th Toronto International Film Festival, September 18, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Grammy Award-winning rock duo The White Stripes for years have maintained an air of mystery around them, but a new film documentary offers a rare insider's look at the pair, who often toy with their public image.

Director Emmett Malloy's The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, follows Jack White and Meg White as they tour every province and territory in Canada, a feat they claim has rarely been attempted.

The film about their 2007 tour, mostly shot in black and white, offers audiences an intimacy that is not usually seen under the media spotlight.

We trusted Emmett a lot from working together so often, Jack White said at a festival news conference. You always should be apprehensive because those are the most special things about what you do, why you're alive and why you're creating together. To give it away too easily, it cheapens those special moments.

The White Stripes burst onto the music scene to critical acclaim with their 1999 album The White Stripes, and went on to make five more records including the latest Icky Thump.

The exact nature of their relationship since forming the band more than a decade ago has been a running joke. They were once married, but for years claimed in interviews to be brother and sister. Even now, in a press note for the industry screening at the festival, they claim to be siblings.

Another running joke is the fact that Jack talks and Meg doesn't, and it's a point that is intentionally played up in the documentary as Meg's words are subtitled.

She is an incredibly shy person and we touched on that, said White. I think it's necessary to show. A lot times, people think I'm not letting her talk, and we joke about that in the film. I'm actually talking over her as she's trying to explain herself, which we thought was hilarious.


The White Stripes are known for performing in far flung places, including a 2005 tour through central America for the album Get Behind Me Satan.

In Canada, the pair wanted to roam the gigantic frontier close to their hometown Detroit, Michigan, said White.

The documentary follows them as they play in large concert halls and give impromptu performances in places ranging from downtown Whitehorse, Yukon, to a one note show in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to a bowling alley, bus and boat. The tour ended in a tenth anniversary concert in Nova Scotia.

Malloy was able to capture the quirkiness of then entire tour, but also the intense emotional moments. The director said he had to balance being a fan and filmmaker.

I was led in there. I was let back stage, but sometimes the door was shut right in my face. And I would kick it open a little, walk in, creep in there, and kind of pay attention to my boundaries, he said of shooting the film.

But it was important for me to push forward times when maybe the cameras weren't feeling like the best thing to be in there.

In arguably the film's most tender moment, White is playing a song on the piano and Meg is sitting beside him, crying.

It's a very powerful scene and hard for me to watch, and hard for Meg to watch, said White.

It goes above and beyond anything about the band and anything about the film. It just opens up... (and) you forget about what you've even watched for the last 90 minutes.

White, who at various times has played with rock bands The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, told reporters in Toronto that he plans to continue making music with Meg.