Transitions Film Festival

The Walrus and the Whistleblower & Filmmaker Q and A

Expired March 15, 2021 12:59 PM
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Screening includes introduction from presenting partner, The High Commission of Canada and post-film discussion with the filmmaker.

An animal trainer becomes an unlikely whistleblower and is sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal a walrus, falling down the rabbit hole of a personal quest while a larger movement grows to end marine mammal captivity.

Phil Demers is a part-time mailman who lives in a bungalow across the creek from MarineLand, the iconic amusement park in Niagara Falls, where he once had his dream job as an animal trainer. He swam with killer whales and became a viral sensation in the early days of social media for his relationship with a walrus named Smooshi. But after over a decade of being a 'company man', he quit his job, made claims of animal cruelty and triggered a media exposé that launched him into a stranger-than-fiction public battle. 

Eight years later, still trying to vindicate himself and save the walrus he left behind, he is trapped in his own story and swallowed whole by the fight. Part cautionary tale, part inspiring portrait of human resilience, this character-driven social issue film goes behind the battle lines of an unconventional animal rights story and a cracking legal drama. It explores questions of compassion for others - humans and animals alike - the nuances of all our stories, and the hills we are willing to die on.


Top Audience Award (Hot Docs International Film Festival); Best Documentary Feature (Forest City Film Festival); Special Jury Award (Newburyport Film Festival); Nominated for Best Director, Best International Documentary, and Supreme Award (Melbourne Documentary Film Festival); Nominated for Best Feature Documentary (Oslo Film Festival)

  • Year
  • Runtime
    89 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Rating
    This film has been exempt from classification and is restricted to people over 15 years. People under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Director
    Nathalie Bibeau