Everyday Activist - The Walrus and the Whistleblower

Posted on Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 12:00 PM

The Walrus and the Whistleblower

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

As with most audience favorites, The Walrus and the Whistleblower, wouldn’t make my list. While I haven’t been to Marineland, I have seen the seal and dolphin shows at West Edmonton Mall without contemplating the well being of ocean creatures in land locked Alberta, because to my child brain, they seemed so happy eating fish and doing tricks. The “Blackfish Effect” changed policy in many jurisdictions, including Canada regarding cetaceans, dolphins and whales. The hypocrisy of discouraging Inuit to kill seals for their food and livelihood as highlighted in Angry Inuk, but perfectly acceptable to kidnap seals to force them to perform for mostly white audiences, would have made a great documentary. While footage of Demers and Smooshie was touching, it wasn’t enough to carry the message that pinnipeds need the same legal protection as cetaceans.

During Phil Demers’ tenure at Marineland, the late marine biologist, award winning Ontario filmmaker and activist Rob Stewart, released two films, Sharkwater (2006), which affected legislation around shark finning and then in 2012, (R)evolution. The Walrus and the Whistleblower might have had a similar impact had director Nathalie Bibeau made the film about walrus and seal rights, filling the gap left by Sharkwater and later on Blackfish. Once party to animal abuse, her former classmate Demers was ready to “right his wrongs” for the well being of the walrus, Smooshie. Demers’ change of heart sharply contrasts with John Holer Sr., the owner of Marineland, who turned a blind eye to the plight of the animals on land and in the water, despite pressure to close the animal exhibits both locally and internationally right up until his death.

Instead, we get the boring life of Demers, the walrus whisperer. Besides being a tweeting, meat eating, animal activist involved in a lawsuit, who pays over $400 in vet bills for a dying cat, he delivers mail part time. Appearing in court in support of a bill meant to end cetacean captivity, Demers admitting to drug use meant for the animals is marginally more interesting than the image of his stove from the 1980s. If anything can be redeemed from Bibeau’s chosen angle is that, like Rob Stewart, Phil Demers still looks great in a wetsuit as his partner, another former Marineland employee, attests.

Pinnipeds, walruses and seals were overdue for their own documentary, if only director Natalie Bibeau understood her role in the movement. The rest of the movie involves a bunch of interviews with lawyers and activists that don’t add anything to the weak storyline, rather they reiterate the message of stealing babies from their moms to be raised for entertainment purposes should be stopped, without providing any actionable steps people can take. Since The Walrus and the Whistleblower won the audience choice award at Hot Docs I hope people support the Globe Cinema this week for screenings of the film to make their own decisions.

Calgary Showtimes:  Walrus and the Whistleblower, The >


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