Johannesburg – South African Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles at the weekend.
The documentary has already won more than 20 international honours, including Best Documentary at the British Academy Film Awards and Producers Guild of America Awards.
Co-directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed received the Oscar. It is the first nature documentary to win an Academy Award since The Cove in 2010.
My Octopus Teacher unfurls the magical, bio-diverse world of the Great African Seaforest, where underwater tracker Craig Foster builds a relationship with an octopus while diving near his home in False Bay.
Ehrlich said she was “utterly overwhelmed with an honour they never dreamed possible”.
“In many ways,” she continued, “this really is a tiny personal story that played out in seaforest at the very tip of Africa, but on a more universal level. I hope that it provided a glimpse of a different type of relationship between human beings and the natural world.”
It was the first-ever South African documentary to be streamed on Netflix.
Ehrlich said, “In a difficult year, where many of us were stuck inside, feeling afraid and confused, a positive story that transports you to a magical world has a powerful appeal. Parts of this story are universal to almost every person on Earth: love and friendship, and connection and hope. It’s about nature, but it’s also a very powerful, archetypal story that helps us make sense of the world.”
The doccie’s main character, Crag Foster, said: “This is excellent news for us, because it underlines what we have been aiming for: to show the world that we are sitting on a biodiversity treasure trove that is deeply worthy of protection.
“We have received thousands of messages from people around the world. Many 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 Seaforest, to the world, and we have succeeded.
“I feel the greatest threat to our species and to this shared planet is the cooling of the human heart towards nature. We have to find ways to reunite with the wild by starting a deep, meaningful and loving kinship with wild places and their living plants and animals. We need a change of heart. We need to listen to our finest scientists and find ways to leave vast stretches of the ocean alone and to give nature time and space to regenerate herself. We need to do this in a sensitive way that takes into account all parts of human society, especially indigenous people who survive off the ocean.”