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Laramie Movie Scope:
My Octopus Teacher

Octopus befriends man

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 29, 2021 – I saw this Netflix movie on the list of Academy Award nominees for best documentaries, so when I got the chance recently, I watched it, and came away impressed with its storytelling.

This movie tells the story of a man, filmmaker Craig Foster, who forges an unlikely friendship with a small octopus in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa.

This documentary shows just how smart and resilient octopuses are. There have been many stories of the unexpected problem-solving intelligence of octopuses over the years, and how some have managed incredible escapes from aquariums, but this film is different. It shows how an octopus uses its intelligence and tenacity to survive in its native environment.

Foster, who narrates the film, Lloyd Bridges style, tells the story of how, burned out by three years of filming a documentary, “The Great Dance,” in the Kalahari Desert, he rejuvenited himself by free diving. Without a wetsuit or scuba gear, he dove daily for a year in a great kelp forest in the cold coastal waters not far from his home in Cape Town, South Africa.

His discovery of a friendly octopus inspired him to pick up his camera again. Over the course of a year, he documented about 80 percent of the life of the octopus who became his friend, in an adventure of discovery. This friendship between man and octopus has its ups and downs, like many other, more conventional, friendships do.

The film shows how the octopus hunts and feeds, and how it evades predators, mainly small sharks, which are much bigger than this small octopus. In one attack, a shark bites off one arm of the octopus. In later shark attack, the octopus escapes by adopting a kind of armor plating with sea shells, and clinging to the back of the shark, who seems very confused by this strategy.

There are several scenes which show how the octopus trusts Foster. It reaches out to him, follows him, clings to him, and even hugs him. The underwater photography is excellent by Roger Horrocks and Foster. Editors Pippa Ehrlich and Dan Schwalm do a fine job matching the video and images to the story that Foster tells.

As expected with this sort of wildlife documentary, there is a certain amount of preachiness involved, about the very real threat to all wildlife on the planet due to global warming, overfishing and pollution. The main message that Foster is trying to convey here, though, is about how we share much in common with the animals of the world, even ones as alien-looking as octopuses.

Foster's environmental organization, the Sea Change Project, is promoted in this film. The organization's aim is to protect the 800-mile long “Great African Sea Forest” from mining and other development. A tiny portion of this kelp forest, one of only eight such forests in the world, is featured in this movie. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]