My Octopus Teacher is an original documentary film by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, presented by Netflix in 2020. It stars Craig Foster, who produced the movie as well. A year Foster spent with a wild octopus is captured in the film. For the majority of the life of the octopus, Foster followed the octopus.
The octopus is a soft-bodied, eight-limbed mollusc of the order Octopoda. About 300 species are recognized and the order is grouped with squids, cuttlefish and nautiloids within the class Cephalopoda. Like other cephalopods, with two eyes and a beak, the octopus is bilaterally symmetrical, with the mouth at the centre of the eight limbs. Various regions of the ocean, including coral reefs, pelagic waters, and the seabed, are inhabited by octopuses; some live in the intertidal zone and others in abyssal depths. The majority of species grow rapidly, mature early and are short-lived. The male uses a specially adapted arm to deliver a bundle of sperm directly into the mantle cavity of the female, after which it dies, while the female deposits fertilized eggs in a den and take care of them until they hatch, after which she also dies. The expulsion of ink, the use of camouflage and threat displays, the ability to jet quickly through the water and hide, and even deceit are strategies for defending themselves against predators. All octopuses are venomous, but humans are known to be deadly only to the blue-ringed octopuses.
My Octopus Teacher film shows how Foster started freediving at the tip of South Africa in a cold underwater kelp forest in 2010. He began filming his experiences, and his attention was captured by a curious young octopus. He won the trust of the animal by visiting her den and tracking her movements every day for months. In the film, Foster explains the impact of his relationship with the octopus on his life.
The film depicts an octopus defending itself from pyjama sharks. The octopus loses an arm in one attack, and then retreats to its den to recover, regenerating the arm. Later, the octopus dies after mating with another octopus and producing a large number of eggs, and the film shows a shark removing her body.
Foster then describes the effect on his relationship with his son of his experience with the octopus, and the development of his son as a diver and student of marine life.
My Octopus Teacher premiered on Netflix 7 September 2020