The Walrus and the Whistleblower (2020)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 28m
  • Canada

Phil Demers is a part-time mailman in his forties who lives in a bungalow across the creek from MarineLand, the Niagara Falls, Ontario, amusement park where he had his dream job as an animal trainer for over a decade. He swam with killer whales and ran the show until he quit and blew the whistle, making claims of animal abuse and calling for an end to the practice of keeping marine mammals in pools.

Known in the media as the Walrus Whisperer, Phil has amassed 27,000 followers on Twitter, has testified before the Canadian Senate, and is being sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal Smooshi the walrus.

Phil and Smooshi became an inseparable pair when she first arrived at MarineLand as a baby, and together they became a viral sensation in the early days of social media. He gave her a sense of security; she gave him a sense of purpose. Now, he’s embroiled in a stranger-than-fiction custody battle to save her from captivity.

This character-driven documentary dives into the media story that has been unfolding in filmmaker Nathalie Bibeau’s hometown for decades, with trusted access to Phil — a childhood acquaintance — at the centre of it. We follow her subject as he champions a law to ban the captivity of whales and dolphins, faces a lawsuit entering its eighth year, and struggles with an aching loss of identity.

“An eye-opening exposé [and] a compelling character-driven story of a committed activist.” –Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Content advisories: nudity, coarse language


Nathalie Bibeau