Northern Banner Picks Up Hot Docs Champ ‘The Walrus and the Whistleblower’

Phil Demers protesting at MarineLand in _The Walrus and the Whistleblower
Photo by Joseph Michael Gratton

By Pat Mullen

Smooshi has a new home. Canadian distributor Northern Banner announced this week that it picked up the rights to Hot Docs champ The Walrus and the Whistleblower. Directed by Nathalie Bibeau and produced by Frederic Bohbot, The Walrus and the Whistleblower tells the courageous story of activist Phil Demers, who faces an extraordinary $1.5 million legal battle and personal attacks from MarineLand when he exposes alleged animal mistreatment at the iconic Canadian water zoo in an effort to save his beloved walrus Smooshi. The film premiered at the virtual editions of both Hot Docs and DOXA and proved an audience favourite with its invigorating plea for marine mammal rights. Northern Banner will distribute the film in Canada this fall with a day-and-date release.

The Walrus and the Whistleblower won both the Audience Award as the overall favourite at Hot Docs and the Rogers Audience Award as the best Canadian feature as voted by the audience. Walrus netted $10,000 courtesy of Rogers as the favourite Canadian doc, splitting the traditional $50,000 purse with the top five Canuck features. As the winner of the overall Audience Award at Hot Docs, Walrus also gets to fast track its eligibility in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature provided it meets all other criteria for eligibility. The film’s acquisition follows the Cannes Market (also held virtually) where a deal was made between Bohbot and Michael Paszt of Northern Banner.

“The courageous battle that the film’s subject Phil Demers has been fighting, and continues to defend, is truly epic,” said Paszt in a statement. “Director Nathalie Bibeau champions this in a thought-provoking film that spotlights the important narrative. We are pumped to get more Canadian eyes on this captivating documentary.”

Gravitas has US and international rights for The Walrus and the Whistleblower while CBC/Documentary Channel is the film’s Canadian broadcaster. Read the POV review of The Walrus and the Whistleblower here.