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Keiko: The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy

Jan 10 | 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Reel Science: Keiko: The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy

With Theresa Demarest, Filmmaker; David Philips, Biologist & Founder of The Free Willy Keiko Foundation; and Karla Munguia, Ambassador for the film

JAN 10, 6:30-8:30PM | Doors @ 6:15PM

Watch and learn at The Empirical Theater as OMSI brings the science of your favorite movies and documentaries to life on the big screen. Perfect for science and film lovers alike, this series combines the best Science Pub with the fun of movie night, bringing in experts to amplify your movie-watching experience. 

  • 6:15PM | Doors Open
  • 6:30PM | Keiko: The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy (1hr 15 mins)
  • 7:45PM | Q&A with Filmmaker Theresa Demarest and Guests

Tickets: $8 adults; $7 youth/seniors; OMSI members receive 15% off.


Watch how Keiko, the orca star of the hit film Free Willy, became the first captive orca to be successfully returned to his ocean. From capture to stardom to rehabilitation, from seapen to daily outings with caretakers, experience how Keiko gained over 3000 lbs, mixed it up with wild orcas, and even exhibited physical signs of attempts to mate, all the while thriving in the waters of his birth.


Theresa Demarest is a songwriter/producer /independent filmmaker for Joshua Records, LLC in Portland, Oregon. Her CDs/DVDs are sold and distributed nationally, and her live shows and award-winning music have garnered a great deal of regional press.

She mixes Folk, R&B, Rock, and touches of jazz to spin a tale, behind which she masterfully creates a distinctive mood and a presence. She brings this unique voice to her film work. 

Her first film, Herd of Two, chronicles her compelling journey to bond with a highly spirited Half-Arab Half-Saddlebred filly  named Tehya Takoda.

In her films, she utilizes her original music to heighten and musically illustrate her  message in order to effect positive change in the environment through education and music.

As producer/director of Keiko The Untold Story, Theresa brings to life her deep connection to

Keiko’s story.  Several years ago, during her recovery from breast cancer, she found solace in Keiko’s own recovery from captivity in a Mexican theme park to his rehabilitation tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Upon surviving cancer, and inspired by Keiko’s story of healing, she composed Keiko’s Dream, an instrumental piece that evokes the whale’s song through an eloquent guitar theme. Her piece evolved into Keiko’s Dream Tour, a ‘unique eco-rock road show’ that consisted of a series of concerts and environmental education presentations in schools and performance halls across Oregon in association with the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation.

This documentary film allows its viewers to pause and take a second look at Keiko’s strong will to survive and to explore his enormous embrace of his own freedom.

It is by pondering his behavior in such powerful footage that viewers can see things about Keiko that perhaps they never took the time to consider before, and to really look at what The Free Willy-Keiko Foundation and all those directly involved were doing. I am interested in translating to the audience the ways in which the effort to release a captive whale into the wild did succeed, as well as examine the questions left unexplored.

David Philips: Biologist David Phillips served as executive director of Earth Island Institute since Earth Island’s founding in 1982. He played a leading role in helping build Earth Island’s diverse and effective network of grassroots projects involved in conservation action, legal advocacy, and youth leadership development. David has a scientific specialization in marine wildlife conservation, and directs Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project. 

David has represented marine mammal conservation issues at numerous international marine conventions, including the International Whaling Commission, and has testified before the United States Congress on marine mammal protection, endangered species conservation, and the impacts of trade on the environment. His direction of Earth Island Institute was acknowledged by the United Nations Environment Programme, which granted David its Leadership Award in honor of his efforts to protect dolphins from indiscriminate fishing techniques. Earth Island Institute’s success in negotiating an agreement with the world’s largest tuna companies to adopt dolphin-safe policies in 1990 was recognized by Time magazine as one of the most significant environmental victories of that decade. 

In 1994, David founded the Free Willy–Keiko Foundation, successfully overseeing a five-nation, $10 million international campaign accomplishing the historic rescue, rehabilitation, and first-ever release of a captive orca whale to its native habitat in Iceland. David was featured in the book Freeing Keiko: The Journey of a Killer Whale from Free Willy to the Wild. In 1995, David was awarded the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal by the Humane Society of the United States for his efforts to protect marine mammals. 

In 2009, David helped open the David Brower Center, a LEED Platinum-rated green building that serves as a hub for the environmental movement as well as a conference center and gallery in downtown Berkeley, California. He serves on the center’s board of directors. In 2014, David received the President Louis T. Benezet Award from Colorado College for extraordinary contributions and achievements that have impacted people’s lives. Since 2016, David has served as a founding director of the board for the nonprofit Whale Sanctuary Project, the first organization focused solely on creating seaside sanctuaries in North America for the rescue and retirement of whales and dolphins from captive facilities. David has been involved in the development and implementation of numerous pieces of legislation pertaining to marine conservation. These include the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act of 1990, the International Dolphin Conservation Act of 1992, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Karla Munguia: Her passion is unstoppable, her energy is contagious, and her commitment and understanding of Keiko’s message is awesome. Karla is spear-heading our efforts to keep Keiko’s legacy alive and swimming, especially with children. During three years, Karla worked as camerawoman and film editor for Animal Planet in South Africa and she’s also been part of some National Geographic projects, including One Strange Rock, a series presented by actor Will Smith where Karla takes us to the underwater world on the episode “Survival”. Karla has a Communication Sciences degree and is also an environmental speaker, including a TEDx talk about beach cleanups that she coordinated in Mexico.

Questions? Email events@omsi.edu
Ticketing questions call 503.797.4000 x0

Frequently Asked Questions

Will food be available for purchase?

Yes, the Empirical Cafe will be open with prepacked salads, sandwiches and movie snacks. The bar will be open to guests that are 21+. No outside food or drink is allowed.

Do I have to pay for parking?

OMSI is switching to a new parking system via the mobile parking app, Parking Kitty, to create an easier and more streamlined experience for our visitors. OMSI parking will cost $5 + fees for 2 hours or $8 + fees for all day parking. Parking is $2 + fees for after-hours events.

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