top of page

And the Oscar goes to...

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

My Octopus Teacher wins Oscar
Octopus (photo by Glucosala)

Every now and again, an animal class or species reaches international stardom and captures the hearts of people the world over. Sometimes it is based on fiction (find me a person who doesn’t love a clown fish on an epic adventure, and I think we will all question their sanity) but I find the story so much more intriguing when it is based on truth and not just the incredible advancements in CGI technology.

I adore cephalopods and know I am not on my own when I say they are quite simply remarkable. They are among my absolute favourite animals to find on a dive and I can – and have – floated along, watching them for as long as they have let me (bottom-time permitting). That is why I was simply over the moon to see the Academy award go to My Octopus Teacher (available on Netflix) this year in the best documentary category.

The film follows a free diver who committed to visiting the same kelp forest every single day off the southwest coast of South Africa for a year, where he became acquainted with a common octopus. Now I loved Paul the Octopus when he reached celebrity status in 2010 for correctly predicting the outcome of each FIFA World Cup football match, but the story that unfolds in My Octopus Teacher encapsulates the incredible intelligence, beauty, and mystique that we associate with these invertebrates in a wonderfully compelling way.

I could – and fully intend to – write many more pieces about octopuses (yes, that is the correct way to describe more than one octopus, thank you Merriam Webster and the Oxford Dictionary) and their cousins the cuttlefish, but here I want to focus on the importance of a well-made documentary and the role they play in bringing us all closer to our natural surroundings.

In my opinion, the elegance of My Octopus Teacher lies in the passing of time. Committed patience and respect for the environment can and does lead to wonderful rewards. Anyone who has ever watched the “behind the scenes” cuts of a nature documentary knows that months of work can translate into just thirty seconds of epic screen time in the final film. Here we have the chance to slow things down and follow the daily habits of an octopus over the course of a year. The results make me want to throw on my mask and fins right now and see what I can find in my own local area.

Most of us don’t have the kinds of jobs where we get sent around the world to film incredible natural scenes – and if you do, I’m incredibly jealous and would love to hear all about it – but most of us have access to a pocket of nature nearby. My Octopus Teacher shows us that there is beauty to be found right on our doorstep. Now, what will it look like tomorrow… and the day after that?

What did you think about the documentary? Have you had the chance to get acquainted with animals out in their natural environments? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


bottom of page