• James Rutherford

'My Octopus Teacher': A Deeply Touching Documentary About an Incredible Undersea Friendship


My Octopus Teacher (2020) is a profoundly touching documentary feature that follows naturalist-filmmaker Craig Foster as he explores the undersea kelp forest off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Free-diving daily for over a year, Foster records his exploration of False Bay's dynamic ecosystem and his burgeoning friendship with a young female Octopus Vulgaris.


Surprised by the benevolence the lithe creature displays from the outset, Foster proceeds to film her daily ventures—often obfuscating her appearance out of necessity while displaying remarkable playfulness for an invertebrate. Her reality is marked by constant peril as she desperately evades predators (the pyjama shark being the film's primary antagonist) while Foster looks on, reluctant to upset the natural order of the sea. His presence in her subaquatic world is that of observer and compatriot, drawn near by her amiability and inspired by her perseverance.


Directed by documentarians James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich, and produced by Foster himself, My Octopus Teacher is an entirely unique and unexpectedly heartrending viewing experience. Foster's personal story is one of emotional tumult during a time of familial upheaval, with his newfound friend providing the camaraderie he desperately needs. Winner of the 2020 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, it's an astounding true story almost too illogical to believe, yet to watch it unfold is to experience a transcendent portraiture of life's fragility first-hand.

 

Watch the trailer: