The Walrus and The Whistleblower
90 min • Nature & Environment, Nature & Environment, Nature & Environment • 2020
Phil Demers is a part-time mailman who lives across the creek from Marineland, the iconic amusement park in Niagara Falls, 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, claiming animal abuse and calling for an end to the 60-year-old practice of keeping marine mammals in pools.
Known as the ‘Walrus Whisperer’ on Twitter, with over 27,000 followers, Phil is being sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal Smooshi, the walrus. Phil and Smooshi had become 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.
Playing out in the swell of a paradigm shift in our relationship with animals, the film pierces the veneer of a media story and goes behind the battle lines of a stranger-than-fiction custody fight to #SaveSmooshi. At its heart are questions of compassion for others - humans and animals alike - the nuances of all our stories, and the hills we are willing to die on.