South African documentary, My Octopus Teacher, brings Oscar home

Written on 04/26/2021
Jarryd Neves

My Octopus Teacher, a SA film that documents filmmaker Craig Foster's special relationship with a wild octopus, has won an Oscar for best documentary.

When filmmaker Craig Foster decided to take a break from a busy schedule, he turned to his passion – diving. Exploring the kelp forests in the waters of Camps Bay, Foster soon found an unlikely friend lurking in the depths of the gorgeous Cape Town coast.

The elusive octopus intrigued the filmmaker, who decided to document his ever-growing relationship with the special creature. In an earlier interview with BizNews, Foster described the film as a “life journey”, saying that he never expected to form such a strong bond with an animal. “The octopus is the most intelligent invertebrate on the planet.”

A highlight of the documentary – which touched many hearts – is when the octopus extends a tentacle toward Foster. “She can also taste with her suckers, so it’s a very intimate touch when an octopus touches one,” remarked the filmmaker.

My Octopus Teacher
By Craig Foster

Now, after receiving praise from the general viewing public, My Octopus Teacher has claimed a monumental win, grabbing an Oscar for Best Documentary. Last year, in response to the film’s success, Foster said, “We had a dream of trying to get [the film] out there, but this has been overwhelming. I’ve done a lot of film over the years and some never see the light of day.”

While the film primarily focuses on his special relationship with the octopus, it also showcases the sheer beauty and magnificence of the kelp forest and the creatures that inhabit it. Co-director Pippa Ehrlich, who accepted the award in Los Angeles, said that she was “utterly overwhelmed” and remarked that “in many ways, this really is a tiny personal story that played out in a sea forest at the very tip of Africa, but on a more universal level, I hope that it provided a glimpse of a different type of relationship between human beings and the natural world.”

The documentary, which enjoyed immense success on Netflix, has won its fair share of awards. Aside from the iconic Oscar, My Octopus Teacher has scooped up over 20 awards, including a BAFTA.

In a letter to the production team, President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated those involved, writing that the film was “documentary storytelling at its best, with a deeply resonant conservation message”. President Ramaphosa wasn’t the only one to congratulate the team, however. Social media was abuzz with congratulatory messages from all corners of the world.

“Parts of this story are universal to almost every person on Earth – love and friendship, connection and hope,” concluded Ehrlich.

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