My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher is a 2020 Netflix Original documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, which documents a year spent by filmmaker Craig Foster forging a relationship with a wild common octopus in a South African kelp forest.
|My Octopus Teacher|
The film shows how, in 2010, Foster began free-diving in a cold underwater kelp forest at a remote location in False Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. The location was near Simon's Town on the Cape Peninsula, which is exposed to the cold Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean. He started to document his experiences and, in time, met a curious young octopus that captured his attention. He decided to keep visiting her den and tracking her movements every day for a year to win the animal’s trust. The two form a bond where she plays with Foster and allows him into her world to see how she sleeps, lives, and eats. In the film, Foster describes the impact on his life of his relationship with the octopus.
The film shows Foster's growing intimate relationship with the octopus as he follows her around for nearly a year. It shows the octopus defending herself against pyjama sharks. In one attack, the octopus loses an arm, and retreats to her den to recover, slowly regenerating the arm over three months. In a later attack of a shark, she shows an incredibly improved creativity to survive, including sticking on the shark's back. Later, after mating with a bigger octopus and producing a large number of eggs, the octopus dies naturally while tending for her eggs and a shark takes her body away.
Foster describes the effect of this mentorship that the octopus provided him with as teaching him a lesson on the fragility of life and humanity's connection with nature. This translated to Foster creating a deeper bond with his son as his son develops as a diver and marine life student.
- Craig Foster, as himself
- Tom Foster, Craig's son, as himself
In partnership with Sea Change Project, Off The Fence and ZDF Enterprises, My Octopus Teacher, was executive produced by Ellen Windemuth. It was directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. Cinematography was directed by underwater cameraman Roger Horrocks with footage from Craig Foster and Roger Horrocks. A smaller amount of underwater footage, not shown in the film but filmed by the same pairing at the same location, had already been shown on Blue Planet II, episode 5.
Foster started filming in 2010; the film was ten years in the making and was the first South African nature documentary to be on Netflix Original.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Academy Awards||25 April 2021||Best Documentary Feature||Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster||Pending|||
|British Academy Film Awards||11 April 2021||Best Documentary||Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster||Won|||
|Cinema Eye Honors Awards||9 March 2021||Audience Choice Prize||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography||Roger Horrocks||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Documentary Awards||16 November 2020||Best Cinematography||Roger Horrocks||Won|||
|Best Science/Nature Documentary||My Octopus Teacher||Won|
|Best Narration||Craig Foster||Nominated|||
|Best Documentary||My Octopus Teacher||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||10 April 2021||Outstanding Directional Achievement in Documentary||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|||
|EarthxFilm Festival||26 April 2020||Best Feature Film||The Octopus Teacher||Won|||
|Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival||17 December 2020||Best Documentary Director||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Won|||
|Houston Film Critics Society Awards||18 January 2021||Best Documentary Feature||My Octopus Teacher||Won|||
|International Documentary Association Awards||16 January 2021||Best Music Score||Kevin Smuts||Won|||
|Best Writing||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|
|Pare Lorentz Award||Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster||Won|
|Jackson Hole Film Festival||1 October 2020||Grand Teton Award||My Octopus Teacher||Won|||
|Best People & Nature Film - Long Form||My Octopus Teacher||Won|
|Best Science in Nature Film - Long Form||My Octopus Teacher||Won|
|Best Editing||Pippa Ehrlich, Dan Schwalm and Jinx Godfrey||Won|
|Best Ecosystem Film - Long Form||My Octopus Teacher||Nominated|
|Best Feature Film||My Octopus Teacher||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Roger Horrocks and Craig Foster||Nominated|
|Best Original Music Score||Kevin Smuts||Nominated|
|Best Audioscape||Barry Donnelly||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America Awards||24 March 2021||Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures||Craig Foster||Won|||
|San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||11 January 2021||Best Documentary Film||My Octopus Teacher||Nominated|||
|St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards||17 January 2021||Best Documentary Feature||My Octopus Teacher||Nominated|||
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