My Octopus Teacher
|My Octopus Teacher|
|Produced by||Craig Foster|
|Music by||Kevin Smuts|
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. At the 93rd Academy Awards, it won the award for Best Documentary Feature.
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. The film shows Foster's growing intimate relationship with the octopus as he follows her around for nearly a year. They form a bond where she plays with Foster and allows him into her world to see how she sleeps, lives, and eats. She has to defend 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 shark attack, she shows an incredibly improved creativity to survive, including sticking on the shark's back. Later, after mating with a male octopus and producing a large number of eggs, she dies naturally while tending to her eggs and a shark takes her body away.
Foster describes the effect of this mentorship-like relationship the octopus provided him, teaching him a lesson on the fragility of life and humanity's connection with nature. This transfers 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
- An octopus, as herself
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 a Netflix Original.
Release and reception
My Octopus Teacher received widespread critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 8.20/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "A heartwarming look at the way a meaningful bond can transcend just about any barrier, this documentary will leave you asking your friends to come and see My Octopus Teacher with you."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Academy Awards||25 April 2021||Best Documentary Feature||Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster||Won|||
|American Cinema Editors Awards||17 April 2021||Best Edited Documentary (Feature)||Pippa Ehrlich and Dan Schwalm||Won|||
|British Academy Film Awards||11 April 2021||Best Documentary||Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster||Won|||
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||17 April 2021||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture – Documentary||Barry Donnelly and Charl Mostert||Nominated|||
|Cinema Eye Honors Awards||9 March 2021||Audience Choice Prize||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography||Roger Horrocks||Nominated|
|LabMeCrazy! Science Film Festival||4 February 2021||Best Documentary||Pippa Ehrlich and Dan Schwalm||Won|||
|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|||
|GREEN SCREEN Wildlife Film Festival||12 September 2020||Best Film||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Won|
|Best Marine Film||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Won|
|Best Story||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Won|
|Best Independent Production||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|
|Best Score||Kevin Smuts||Nominated|
|Heinz Sielmann Award||Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed||Nominated|
|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|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards||16 April 2021||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Documentary||Barry Donnelly and Charl Mostert||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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