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My Octopus Teacher (2020)

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

A peculiar take on the nature documentary, with a human twist

7.0

Movie

South Africa, United Kingdom
English, French
Documentary
2020
FEMALE DIRECTOR, JAMES REED
Craig Foster
85 min

What it's about

After years of swimming every day in the freezing ocean at the tip of Africa, Craig Foster meets an unlikely teacher: a young octopus who displays remarkable curiosity. Visiting her den and tracking her movements for months on end he eventually wins the animal’s trust and they develop a never-before-seen bond between human and wild animal.

The take

Craig Foster’s bond with an octopus takes the spotlight in this heartfelt documentary set in the cold seas of South Africa. The title hints at the nature of this bond: the tentacled creature shows the human outsider the ropes in her watery den.

Both parties have an endless curiosity about one another, giving the filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed much fuel for this sentimental doc. My Octopus Teacher features Foster diving in the ocean every day and waxing poetic through voiceovers about the remarkable ability of a wild animal to connect with him. This all takes place amidst his obsessive mapping of said animal’s habitat during what appears to be a mid-life crisis. It’s beautiful, yes, both visually and in its message of nature being something we can connect with to find meaning, but much of the story revolves around what Foster feels the octopus is doing in relation to him, and not about what it’s doing, period. The documentary becomes an exercise in making something that exists peacefully in its own little world all about some guy.

For a film that centers on an unlikely emotional attachment, it does explore the ocean and present the adventures one can embark on due to curiosity. Despite its faults, it manages to be informative and shows off gorgeous underwater cinematography.

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