‘My Octopus Teacher’ an emotional journey based on unusual friendship

There is even more local content this week, this time a brand-new SA film called My Octopus Teacher.

Despite the title sounding like a quirky slice-of-life anime, Octopus is a documentary focused on Craig Foster, an award-winning documentary filmmaker in his own right.

According to Foster, his journey started after he found himself burnt out with his work and needing to rediscover his sense of purpose.

Part of this involved daily free diving in a local kelp forest off of Simonstown in the Western Cape. During one of his dives, he came across an octopus living in the rocks and over the course of a year, managed to earn its trust. The pair formed a strong, if unlikely bond, and it’s this friendship which the film tries to explore.

Those looking for a more traditional nature documentary would be better off elsewhere. Octopus isn’t all that interested in exploring octopi as a species, but rather focuses on this one specific octopus and its relationship with Foster.

Over the course of the film, the audience is privvy to some exciting encounters, such as the octopus escaping a shark by hitching a ride on its back, as well as some truly nerve-racking ones, such as another shark succeeding where its friend failed and managing to take a leg (it grows back).

But Foster’s narration can sometimes come across as overly corny, to the point where his descriptions of his relationship with the octopus border on the ridiculous.

This is most clearly seen shortly after the octopus has its arm ripped off, and Foster goes on to explain how it’s similar to his own life in a way. I have a suspicion the octopus would probably disagree with this.

The film has way too many shots of Foster moodily looking off into the middle distance, but in the moments when the film does work, My Octopus Teacher can hit hard, helped in no small part by some truly jaw-dropping footage and still photography, often captured by Foster during his dives.

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