‘It came as a huge surprise’ — ‘My Octopus Teacher’ team ‘overwhelmed’ by Oscar nomination

17 March 2021 - 11:50
Filmmaker Craig Foster in the sea.
Filmmaker Craig Foster in the sea.
Image: Craig Foster

The producer and directors of SA’s documentary My Octopus Teacher are beaming with excitement after the film scooped an Oscar nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category.

The film gained international success after its release on Netflix in September last year.

It follows filmmaker Craig Foster as he develops an extraordinary relationship with an octopus while exploring a kelp forest near Simon’s Town, Western Cape.

The film was produced by Foster and directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed.

Foster said while the nomination was very exciting, the most fulfilling honour was the feedback they have received since the film was released.

“We have received thousands of messages from people of all ages around the world who loved the film,” he said.

“Many of these people have started diving, studying marine sciences or using My Octopus Teacher as a tool in mental health workshops and in discussions around emotional ecology and deep nature connection.

“We wanted to showcase this wonderful ecosystem, the Great African Sea Forest, to the world and we have succeeded.”

The film will go up against four other films and the winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on April 26.

“To be nominated for an Oscar feels completely overwhelming and surreal. We spent many years working away in an attic on the tip of Africa, and being recognised by a global community like this is incredible,” said Ehrlich.

The film has already won several international awards, including two awards at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards in November 2020.

The film is also nominated for a British Academy Film Award in the Best Documentary category, a Producers Guild Award and a Directors Guild Award.

“It’s hard to know why audiences have responded so strongly. It came as a huge surprise to us but I think they are resonating with parts of the story that are universal to almost every person on Earth: love and friendship and connection and hope,” said Ehrlich.

“This is deeply encouraging for me as a filmmaker and as someone who is committed to the protection of the natural world because it demonstrates that despite all the environmental challenges we face, human beings continue to resonate with the awe and wonder of nature.”