My Octopus Teacher (2020)

my octopus teacher poster 2020 movie documentary
8.5 Overall Score

Great photography, interesting story

Sometimes the connection causes him to overthink

Movie Info

Movie Name: My Octopus Teacher

Studio: Off the Fence

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s):  September 4, 2020 (Docs Against Gravity Film Festival)/September 7, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

my octopus teacher underwater footage

High Five, Bro!

Craig Foster feels disconnected.  The documentary filmmaker feels that he’s lost touch with his South African childhood and his love of the sea, and that this disconnect is beginning to affect his family and his relationship with his son.  Returning to South Africa, Foster begins free diving in the kelp forests off the coast and makes a discovery.  Foster finds a small octopus hiding in a pile of shells and decides to reach out the octopus and study it.  Over the months, Foster grows a friendship with the octopus and in turn learns more about himself.

Directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, My Octopus Teacher is a nature documentary.  The film premiered at the Docs Against Gravity Film Festival and was released upon digital platforms on September 7, 2020.  It received an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.

I have a bias toward octopuses (contrary to popular belief, the plural of octopus isn’t octopi).  They are intelligent, they’re self-aware, they are problem solvers, and they can recognize people.  When I was little, octopuses were always portrayed as villainous killers that drag you down under the water and drown you…Foster would disagree and the movie shows you the wonder of the creatures.

my octopus teacher on land

You learning from me? Wrong! I was learning from you…now my conquest of Earth can begin!!!

The octopus in question doesn’t have the easiest life.  The area it lives in is surrounded by pyjama sharks that feast on octopuses, and octopuses in general live hard and fast.  Foster must first befriend it and does that by being in the area a lot (he goes every day) and the octopus eventually accepts him.  This is both good and bad for the octopus (as even Foster notes), the octopus might not entirely understand him, but Foster being in the water often probably scares away more dangerous animals and thus protecting the octopus.  This could have potentially allowed the octopus to let its guard down which fortunately doesn’t cost the octopus its life.

The documentary is beautifully shot with great underwater photography.  Unlike something like the Caribbean where tons of beautiful, colorful fish swim around, the South Atlantic is cold and sometimes even murky in the area.  The pictures however are clear and find the beauty in the animals do live in the area.  Starfish, jellyfish, crabs, sea slugs, and lobsters fill out the space, and it is shot masterfully.

my octopus teacher craig foster last meeting

Saying goodbye to a “friend”

Foster’s only problem (and he might even admit it) is that he gets a bit too close to the subject.  While octopuses are intelligent and the octopus most likely did recognize him, he seemed to read too much into some of his reactions to him.  Octopuses often essentially “see” through taste and touch and the octopus’s curiosity has some of that natural reaction.  While connecting to the octopus was Foster’s goal, it feels like he sometimes needed to step back a bit more in his reaction to the octopus…he could be building something that is not necessarily there in the way he thinks it is.

My Octopus Teacher is a nice movie about nature, man’s connection to it, what we can learn from it, and why it needs protecting.  It is a story about the circle of life and a reminder that though we feel we are out of that circle, we are still part of it.  I’m always for anything that allows people to see nature in another way and to think about their surroundings, and My Octopus Teacher succeeds on that front.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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