My Octopus Teacher

2020 / Netflix / Documentary / 90 minutes

Netflix’s My Octopus Teacher is a visually breathtaking film that provides an intimate glimpse into the world of another species. When famed documentary filmmaker Craig Foster found himself unable to feel joy from any of his usual activities, he returned to his childhood home—a seaside bungalow near Cape Town, South Africa—and went free diving every day in an effort to “rejoin the natural world.” 

One day he stumbled across what looked like a ball of seashells. As he tried to make sense of the sight, a small octopus erupted, leaving her protective armor of seashells behind. This chance encounter led to a truly remarkable relationship. 

Foster returned every day and eventually the octopus became so acclimated to his presence that she just went about her business, giving us a rare insight into how highly intelligent octopuses learn to hunt, evade predators, and even play. The octopus approaches Foster’s camera holding a seashell in front of her as a shield. She walks on the sea bottom using two tentacles like legs. She survives a truly harrowing shark attack and learns to outsmart the next shark who tries.

As his time with the octopus draws to a close, it’s Foster who is transformed. By seeing beyond the otherness of a species so different from our own, he accomplishes his goal, coming to see himself as part of the natural world, and not just a visitor.