We could learn a lot from the animal kingdom. In fact, many of us have first hand experience of all the lovely lessons animals can teach us. I’m talking about our house pets, of course. Our little pups and cats at home help teach us the meaning of unconditional love.
Is that all they have to teach us though? Is that all any animal has to teach us? What would be so wrong with that? Many of us are in true need of learning how to love. If an animal is the best teacher for that, then so be it!
The good news is that this job isn’t just fit for pups and cats. Some of the best animal teachers can come from the most unusual places. In this case, the animal teacher is an eight legged sea creature who looks more like a horror movie villain than a cuddly pet!
Nothing sums up the underwater world quite like Craig Foster in the opening of his documentary, My Octopus Teacher: “A lot of people say that an octopus is like an alien. But the strange thing is, as you get closer to them, you realize you’re very similar in a lot of ways. You’re stepping into this completely different world, such an incredible feeling, and you feel as though you’re on the brink of something extraordinary.” What no one expects from the underwater world, however, is to form a meaningful connection with an eight-legged creature.
The documentary documents Foster’s experience meeting and getting to know an octopus. This relationship happens at a time when Foster himself is at his lowest point. He was able to document their entire relationship’s progress that developed in the African Sea.
The documentary shows Foster as he went diving without any diving gear such as a wet suit or oxygen, every day for a year. This type of extreme diving is in itself an incredible feat. Even more incredible was the relationship he made underwater. While studying aquatic life, he came across an octopus who over time, he developed a relationship close enough that the two of them would swim and play games with each other. The documentary about this experience was released on Netflix in September of 2020 entitled “My Octopus Teacher.”
The film is an unlikely miracle. It is a miracle that even Foster himself didn’t set out to accomplish. The descriptions here and elsewhere can’t do the film justice. The merger of man and nature is astounding. Since its release, the film has made waves.
The range of reactions to the film have gone from people proclaiming that they will never eat octopus again, to people saying they are crying from watching it. Pippa Ehrlich was the editor and director of the film. She is also a member of the Sea Change Project which is a group dedicated to protect the waters where the octopus was found. She said, “What I loved about this story is there was a story of positivity and hope that involved human beings and the natural world being in one place. It was an opportunity to expand people’s perceptions of what the relationship between us and the wild can be.”
The delicate nature of Foster’s interactions with the octopus act as a direct mirror to how we ourselves not only interact with wildlife, but also each other.