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Episode 569: The Walrus and the Whistleblower ft. Nathalie Bibeau

By Jasmin and Mariann — December 05, 2020

Nathalie Bibeau, who joins us this week, is a director and producer who began her career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with the landmark series, Canada: A People’s History. An award-winning director and producer, Nathalie has since produced documentary projects such as Africa on the Move, which won a Gemini Award—presented by the Academy for Canadian Cinema and Television—for Best Documentary Series in 2011. Her work has taken her everywhere, from the sub-Arctic to Angola and the swamps of Louisiana. Nathalie has also written for the Globe and Mail and volunteered for War Child in Ethiopia. Her most recent project, the controversial documentary film The Walrus and the Whistleblower, was selected for the virtual 2020 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival.

Nathalie tells us why she decided to go back to the rust belt of Ontario, where she grew up, to make a film featuring Niagara Falls’ infamous MarineLand and its nemesis, Phil Demers, a former MarineLand trainer whose love for a walrus consumed his life and turned him into a passionate activist. Nathalie discusses how she set out to explore the multifaceted themes in the movie in a way that could engage a non-activist audience by striking a balance between revealing the animal cruelty behind MarineLand’s success and telling the story of her all-too-human protagonists.

In this week’s “Our Hen House Supports Vegan Businesses” segment, we’re showing some love to Drop Squad Kitchen and No Bones Beach Club. Drop Squad Kitchen, Delaware’s only 100% plant-based restaurant, creates boutique style plant-based foods from scratch; every recipe on their menu reflects a story. No Bones Beach Club is a women owned vegan restaurant that started with a humble food truck in Seattle. They’re committed to a plant-based lifestyle and their goal is to spread the word that just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it sucks. Like so many restaurants, they have been struggling during Covid and were forced to close their beloved Portland restaurant to the dismay of so many Oregon vegans, but are still serving in Seattle.

“Any social change has to happen in waves—the paradigm doesn’t shift overnight .”
– Nathalie Bibeau

This Week in Our Hen House:

  • The central theme of The Walrus and the Whistleblower and why Nathalie decided to make a film featuring her brother’s childhood friend, Phil Demers
  • How her strong family connection to the area and the park helped and hindered her in making the documentary
  • Why MarineLand was so keen to file multiple lawsuits and why it made her think long and hard about getting involved
  • The turning point in her decision to make the film
  • How Smooshi the walrus ended up in MarineLand and how Phil’s relationship with her developed
  • Animal activism and the difficulties that activists encounter in their quest to bring injustices to light
  • How Natalie incorporated scenes between Phil and legislators from the Senate archives and why they were so crucial to the narrative
  • The discussion of veganism in the film and why scenes discussing the topic were so hotly debated by the production team
  • How the movie has been received and pland for distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic

Connect with Nathalie Bibeau

Connect with Our Hen House:

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This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at awfw.org.

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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.

The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by Michael Harren.






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