SA documentary-film My Octopus Teacher wins an Oscar!

South Africans on Monday morning (26 April 2021) woke up to the amazing news that the Cape Town filmed documentary My Octopus Teacher won an Oscar! It is probably the best news (so far) this year.

My Octopus Teacher is a Netflix Original documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. Released on Netflix in September 2020, the 85-minute film shows SA filmmaker and naturalist Craig Foster’s growing intimate relationship with an octopus named Rosetta as he follows her around for nearly a year. She has to defend herself against pyjama sharks and in one attack, loses an arm, retreating 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. SPOILER ALERT! Later, after mating with a bigger 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.

Directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed attended the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station in Los Angeles. My Octopus Teacher beat 4 other documentaries namely The Mole Agent, Collective, Crip Camp and Time. Photo: AFP

“I’m feeling grateful, overwhelmed, amazed and very proud as a South African especially,” Ehrlich told news24.

President Cyril Ramaphosa also sent his congratulations describing the documentary as “storytelling at its best”. “The team should be justifiably proud, as are we,” Ramaphosa said.

If you haven’t seen it already, please make a plan. It is available on Netflix SA right now. Do keep the Kleenex handy!

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