Film Review: Netflix’s My Octopus Teacher ….A Love Affair
Surfing through the many options available on Netflix, not knowing what to see, I came across a documentary of the life of an octopus and her relationship with a human, actually a man. The film is a gem to watch as you experience a real-life interaction with nature. I, for one (with a bit of shame) love – love to eat grilled octopus as it is one of my favorite dishes. Watching this film about these amazing creatures makes one think twice about eating them. Here, why….
First… A Bit About Octopus
Before I walk you through this gorgeous wildlife documentary, I was curious to learn more about these uniquely exotic, alien-looking creatures. Octopus are referred to as cephalopods (marine creatures with tentacles) who are extremely complex and intelligent, capable of being devious and outsmarting their predator, surviving and evolving on this planet for thousands of years.
They mate to then die once eggs have been cared for having a life span of 1-5 years, depending on the species. Lacking a bone structure, they are capable of squeezing into any small space and are able to use shells as a tool to camouflage their bodies, changing colors to either hide from a predator or catch their prey. More later…
Now, the Love Story…
First, this film starts with spectacular views of South Africa’s Cape of Storm on the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. You immediately get to experience the beauty of the ocean waves smashing against massive rocks with gorgeous scenes of underwater wildlife within a kelp forest. Craig Foster, the film producer, who has a passion for diving, narrates what brought him back to his childhood home. As a burnout anxiety-driven filmmaker with a sense of loss, the ocean became his refuge toward recovery. The filmmaking of the underwater forest and stunning wildlife is exquisite. Able to hold his breath for as long as 5-6 minutes, Craig’s curiosity brings him to the den of a female Octopus who he makes eye contact.
Using his camera, he observes her many exotic features and the treacherous ways she captures her prey and hides from sharks. Every day he swims into the ocean making eye contact with her until he approaches the den and offers his hand. You become amazed to see this creature extend one of her tentacles, hugging his hand, letting him know I think I can trust you. Over a span of 300 days, there are many interactions between the two of them that almost seem unreal. To see this marine animal that clearly has feelings snuggle on this chest and swim with him is quite magical. You get to see the intelligence of this animal maneuvering through the water, escaping a shark that eventually gets to feed on one of her tentacles. Surprisingly, within 100 days, she nurses the wound and grows a new one.
But this story is not just about their interaction, it is also about how this man is transformed back to what was missing in his life, allowing him to be a better father to his son. As expected, he is obsessed with her. He wants to know everything about this specie, tracking her with the only boundary being him coming up for air. On one of his daily visits, he sees her accompanied by another octopus, as she is now ready to mate, and their time together is coming to an end.
As I mentioned earlier, the female octopus will slowly die as it stops eating in order to feed thousands of eggs with her body. Her eventual death allows him to break this obsession and to continue his path toward full recovery by becoming more in touch with nature and his son… thanks to her teaching him how. I love the film and I highly recommend watching it for both inspiration and to better understand how humans connect to nature to heal and reinvent themselves.
So, What About Eating Octopus?
The demand for octopus is worldwide and growing. It is especially popular in Asian and Mediterranean countries. More recently, there has been a growing interest among American foodies. However, there has been much debate on whether to farm these creatures, as is the case for most of the seafood we eat. There are many scientists and animal advocates who oppose this on ethical grounds due to these creatures possessing a high level of intelligence. Fortunately for the octopus, there are many challenges with farming them that will make it a lot harder to do for now, but that may change in the near future.
I honestly can’t say that I will not eat them. They are not a cheap meal unless you’re in Mexico. My preference is to choose seafood over meat, which also has its fair share of debate. However, from time to time I will ponder my limits.
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