My Octopus Teacher – A Documentary Film by Greg Foster
My Octopus Teacher is an excellent film filled with beautiful images of nature, following filmmaker Greg Foster as he explores the ocean underworld in False Bay, near Cape Town, striking up a unique and human-like friendship with an octopus in the process.
Set in a magnificent part of our natural world – wild, uncontrollable, poetic – we see all the beauty of nature on-screen, including the skies, the raging sea and underwater kelp forests as diverse as the Amazon rainforest. These are unusual images we rarely get to see and therefore crave. Just as in modern society we might feel separate from our roots as humans and from those that still live in close connection with the environment, the film highlights our separation from the animal world. We are too often alienated from the animals around us and see them as a product to profit from.
The film closes this gap by showing the intelligence, adaptability, trust and affection of this unusual octopus creature and also the extraordinary defences it has developed to ensure survival. She can walk, grow horns, change colour, deceive, camouflage and use intelligence to take advantage of her enemy by sitting on its back and striking with lightning speed.
She can even leave the ocean and go ashore. The filmmaker wants to empathize with this mysterious creature and is eager to build a relationship of trust between them. We know relatively little about the interior lives of these creatures, yet the film shows us they can use their tentacles like fingers, caress and meet other creatures and move around the world with confidence.
Even the element of play is not foreign to her, indicating that she is a social animal, yet we see her as so different to us. Our worlds are, in fact, not so different. There are predators around her always and she has to contend with the constant threat. This world is in many ways transposable to ours.
Yet her curious and intelligent life must eventually end. Towards the end of the film, she reproduces, lays her eggs, sacrifices herself for her offspring and dies. Filmmaker Greg Foster draws energy from the wildness of nature, seeing the softness of this creature and her vulnerability. Wild nature is so precious and our planet is so fragile – that’s the lesson of this film. There will always be little ones, even for humans, and this chain can only continue if humans don’t intervene.
Are there too many predators on earth? Is this how the balance between predator and prey is disturbed and our planet destroyed?