My Octopus Teacher has brought the Oscar home!!!
Los Angeles, United States of America (26 April 2021) – My Octopus Teacher – the fascinating story of a man’s bond with an Octopus – has just won an Oscar as the Best Documentary for 2020.
The film, which has won more than 20 international awards, including Best Documentary at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) and Producers Guild of America Awards, becomes the first nature documentary to win an Academy Award since The Cove in 2010.
Co-director Pippa Ehrlich, who accepted the iconic gold statuette at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles with co-directing colleague James Reed, said she was “utterly overwhelmed” with “an honour we never dreamed possible”.
“In many ways this really is a tiny personal story that played out in seaforest at the very tip of Africa, but on a more universal level I hope that it provided a glimpse of a different type of relationship between human beings and the natural world.”
In a personal letter before the ceremony, President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated the production team of the film, saying it was “documentary storytelling at its best, with a deeply resonant conservation message”.
My Octopus Teacher does not use disturbing images of the degradation of the ocean or her creatures but gently lures the audience into a deep sense of wonder and compassion for the magical and bio-diverse world of the Great African Seaforest, where underwater tracker Craig Foster builds a profound relationship with a common octopus while diving near his home in False Bay. The film last year became the first South African documentary to become a Netflix Original. It was released to instant acclaim during the global COVID-19 lockdown, which Ehrlich acknowledges as partly serendipitous to the film’s stellar rise in popularity: “In a difficult year, where many of us were stuck inside, feeling afraid and confused, a positive story that transports you to a magical world has a powerful appeal.”
“Parts of this story are universal to almost every person on Earth – love and friendship, and connection and hope,” Ehrlich says. “It’s about nature, but it’s also a very powerful, archetypal story that helps us make sense of the world.”
Foster, a documentary filmmaker for 28 years, says the Oscar victory brings life-affirming kudos to the media advocacy work by the film’s producing entity the Sea Change Project, which he co-founded with My Octopus Teacher Associate Producer Ross Frylinck in 2012.
The proudly South African documentary was up against some tough competition; Collective – a detailed look into how corruption sparked a fire in Romania and a political crisis, Crip Camp – which tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer retreat in the Catskills where, from 1951 to 1977, many young people with disabilities first experienced the joys of community, The Mole Agent – an incredible documentary which follows an 83-year-old who is sent into a nursing home as a spy, and Time – a documentary which tells the story of one family’s painful struggle, and how the justice system sentences people of colour in America.
The unexpected documentary about a man’s bond with an octopus entitled My Octopus Teacher captivated the world in 2020. The documentary was filmed in Cape Town and followed how a tiny octopus formed a bond with free-diver Craig Foster.
The feature documentary is a collaboration between the Sea Change Project, an NGO raising awareness of the beauty and ecological importance of South Africa’s kelp forest, Off the Fence Productions based in the Netherlands and Netflix. This is the first Netflix Original Documentary to come out of South Africa. Directed by Ehrlich and Reed and produced by Foster, My Octopus Teacher is the culmination of a decade of hard work and dedication to showcasing The Great African Seaforest and the creatures that live in it.
“The story is about Foster, who is suffering from a loss of purpose, begins a daily diving regimen in the freezing kelp forests at the tip of Africa to re-energize himself. Foster is an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of the Sea Change Project and has dedicated the past nine years to diving every day in the Atlantic Ocean without a wetsuit, documenting the process of how the human body adapts to cold and studying the kelp forest ecosystem.
What he discovers below the water’s surface is a totally alien motivation in the form of an unusually curious octopus. This beautiful record of an animal’s entire life—something seldom achieved in the wild, let alone underwater – was shot over a full year and explores the habits and personality of a strange, undulating creature that most of us have only ever eaten.”
Watch the trailer here: