South Africanmade Netflix documentary allows the audience to fall in love with an animal they know little about.

The South African documentary film, My Octopus Teacher, released in September 2020, is taking the international awards season by storm. 

With the movie winning Best Documentary at the British Academy Film Awards this past Sunday, April 11, 2021 and also being nominated for an Academy Award, is it really deserving of this recognition?  

The Netflix documentary took 10 years to make and is directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. It tells the story of South African filmmaker Craig Foster who, worn out and exhausted from the pressures of life and filmmaking, decides to reconnect with nature and the world around him by freediving into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean every day for a year. 

As part of his experience he meets a young, common octopus living in a kelp forest near False Bay in Western Cape. Intrigued by a creature he knows little about, Foster decides to dive into the kelp forest every day to visit and film the octopus.  

Throughout the film, the relationship between Foster and the octopus continues to strengthen as they begin to trust each other over the course of the year, leading to touching moments such as the octopus reaching out to touch Foster’s finger, and holding onto his arm as he gently floats up to the surface for a breath. The audience is able to experience the natural occurrences of nature in a way that has rarely been shown on screen.  

The audience also sees Foster go through a complete mental transformation, rekindling his relationship with his young son in the process.  

The film comes to an expected but heartwrenching conclusion, when the octopus gives up all of her strength to birth her young, sacrificing her own life in the process.  

My Octopus Teacher succeeds in capturing its audience with a wave of emotions. They quickly become emotionally attached to the animal, feeling a rush of nerves as she hunts for prey and hides from her predators. There is a feeling of warmth as she glides gracefully across the ocean floor. The documentary shows a different side to a very mysterious animal.  

The cinematography in the film is breathtaking to say the least, with Roger Horrocks (of BBC Blue Planet II fame) and his team producing beautifulbright images of the different creatures that call the kelp forest home.  

Foster has clearly been affected by his experience and believes the octopus taught him to become more sensitised to those around him. After his yearlong experience with this creature, Foster co-founded the Sea Change Projecta non-profit organisation whose goal is to protect the South African kelp forest.  

It is no wonder that this documentary has been nominated for an Academy Award anclaimed as many accolades as it has. Setting its focus on an animal that feels alien to most of society, and being able to show a more humane side to itMy Octopus Teacher shows how vast and beautiful the world truly is.  

VUVU RATING: 9.5/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: The official poster for the documentary. Photo: Sea Change Project