The 93rd edition of the Academy Awards took place this past weekend, presented between two separate locations at Union Station Los Angeles, and the grand Dolby Theatre.
The films nominated for this year’s Best Documentary Feature spanned a wide range of topics: from rampant corruption in a Romanian hospital, to the humble beginnings of the disability rights movement. Ultimately, it was a nature documentary entitled My Octopus Teacher that claimed the Oscar: a momentous conclusion to more than ten years of tireless work.
Produced in collaboration with Netflix Originals, ZDF Enterprises, Off the Fence and Sea Change Project, My Octopus Teacher follows filmmaker and naturalist Craig Foster, as he bonds with a wild female octopus in the dense kelp forests of Cape Town, South Africa. The film originally began as a personal project of Foster’s–an effort to simply reconnect with the natural world. While free-diving near Cape Town, he slowly befriended the curious mollusk; eventually earning her trust.
“The boundaries between her and I seemed to dissolve,” Foster remarks. “She was really teaching me to become sensitised to the other, especially wild creatures.”
Throughout the film, Foster speaks at length on the impact the octopus left on him: lessons of life’s fragility, and the miracle of our connections with the natural world. In his acceptance speech via telecast, Foster stated:
“This really is a tiny, personal story that played out in a sea forest at the very top of Africa. But, on a more universal level, I hope that it provides a glimpse of a different kind of relationship between human beings and the natural world.”
The film had been awarded numerous accolades prior to last night’s Oscar win, including Best Feature Film at the EarthxFilm Festival, Best Cinematography at the Critic’s Choice Documentary awards, and Best Musical Score at the International Documentary Association Awards.
My Octopus Teacher claimed victory in a formidable field, competing against hard-hitting contenders such as Collective, Crip Camp, The Mole Agent and Time. The film was somewhat of an underdog: pre-show predictions favoured Time and Crip Camp, as both had won numerous awards prior to the Oscars ceremony.
My Octopus Teacher was released onto Netflix on September 7th, 2020, where it remains available for streaming.