Sunday, June 20, 2021

‘My Octopus Teacher’ Reminds Us About the Beauty of Nature

My Octopus Teacher is a documentary made by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. It showcases the friendship between filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus from South Africa. The documentary premiered on Netflix this September and has been attracting rave reviews from critics as well as audiences.

The octopus

The documentary covers a period of Foster’s life when he was battling depression and career exhaustion. To get some relief from the stress, Foster would go diving off the coast of South Africa. Soon, he became obsessed with an octopus and its life. Foster started diving into the water daily to visit the octopus and observe her in her natural habitat. He was amazed at how cleverly and creatively the octopus adapted to her environment and evaded predators.

In one instance, the octopus is seen modifying her crab-hunting tactic to catch lobsters. When faced with a shark, the octopus survives by climbing onto its back, the one place the shark won’t be able to attack. On other occasions, the octopus survives dangers by using her incredible shapeshifting skills to make herself look like rocks and seaweed. The octopus also gets increasingly fascinated by Foster, the human being who keeps following her everywhere but does no harm to her.

An octopus disguises itself by holding shells against its body.
Foster watches the octopus survive dangers by using her incredible shapeshifting skills to disguise herself. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

In fact, most audience members who watched the documentary were touched by the affection shown by the octopus toward Foster, reminding us that creatures everywhere feel love. In one moment, the octopus is shown to swim up to Foster and land on his chest, signifying that it trusts him.

Foster notes that when you gain the trust of a creature, it will ignore your presence and carry on with its normal activities, allowing you to take a look into some incredibly unique behaviors that would otherwise remain undocumented. He states that the biggest lesson the octopus taught him was that human beings are also a part of the natural world and are not mere visitors.

The team behind the documentary had to face numerous hurdles before getting it on Netflix. In fact, the company rejected it the first time. Fortunately, an influential person happened to see the film and decided that it should be streamed on the site.

“Our group, our whole idea is to try and get this great African sea forest, kind of the home of the octopus teacher recognized as a global icon, like the Serengeti or the Great Barrier Reef, because nobody really knows about it and no one realizes just how important this ecosystem is in terms of biodiversity, in terms of how important it is for the planet. People have sort of forgotten that the biodiversity of nature is our life support system,” Foster said to BizNews.

An octopus swimming through kelp.
Foster hopes the African sea forest will come to be recognized as a global icon, like the Serengeti or the Great Barrier Reef. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

The response

My Octopus Teacher has won numerous awards worldwide. It received eight nominations for the Jackson Wild award, two nominations for Britain’s Wildscreen Panda Awards, and six nominations from Germany’s Green Screen festival. It won the best feature award at EarthX Film Festival.

International publications have praised My Octopus Teacher as a must-watch documentary. Some celebrities even vowed to never eat octopus again after watching the movie. On YouTube, one netizen also commented that he will not be able to eat octopus from now on, while others admitted that they were left with tears by the end of the film.

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Jessica Kneipp
Jessica writes about films, and occasionally gets to direct them. Music, photography, art, poetry, reading and travel are pretty good too. She has a love of silent films, they are the closest she will ever get to "time travel."

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