My Octopus Teacher – An Inspiring Film

This documentary, directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed follows the unlikely relationship which develops between the South African filmmaker Craig Forster and a wild common octopus after a chance encounter in a kelp forest over the course of a year. I had heard about this film from friends and family who watched it on its release by Netflix almost two years ago. For some reason all the plaudits, culminating in its winning an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2021 put me off from watching it myself. How wrong I was!

The film captures the gradual building of trust between the two main characters – their natural curiosity and openness slowly but surely overcoming caution. Forever lurking in the background, the harsh reality of nature – to eat or be eaten is ever present. The octopus somehow survives an attack by a pyjama shark – it’s recovery is one of the many remarkable aspects of this creature.

This is a truly magical film – beautifully filmed and narrated, and is by turns intelligent, challenging, profoundly moving, shocking, sad and uplifting, without being sentimental. It has turned my perception and understanding of intelligence and consciousness upside down. Most moving of all – in learning to love a creature which superficially seems so alien to us, Forster became more able to be at peace with himself and others, including his son. To write any more on a film which has affected me so much would be wrong. It just needs to be experienced. As Forster himself so eloquently states, humankind needs to realise that it is part of a far greater connected intelligence (earth’s ecosystem), and not its ruler.