‘My Octopus Teacher’

A real charmer of a tale as filmmaker Craig Foster returns to South Africa’s Western Cape for a period of rest and recuperation. An area known to him as a child, Foster finds himself drawn to the wild ocean, little expecting an encounter that would change his life.

A keen diver, a chance sighting of a female octopus in an area of calm amidst a kelp forest results in one of the most touching accounts of unexpected friendship. With underwater cameras following and recording every day for almost a year, Foster and the octopus build a bond of trust as he learns, through observation, of the fragility of life and the deep connection between the human and natural worlds.

It’s a bittersweet experience, but one filled with hope as the life cycle of a female octopus takes its natural course. In not looking to be a ‘nature documentary’, My Octopus Teacher is instead more experential, a little more emotive, a little more personal. And this beautiful film, stunningly shot by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, is the better for it.

A Netflix original.

Winner of the 2021 Oscar for best documentary

Rating: 73%

‘The Harvesters’

the harvestersA stark, red-neck Christian Bible-belt story, Afrikaans-style.

In his directorial debut, Etienne Kallos’ powerful feature, set in the vast isolated open spaces of the Free State, looks to the threatened demise of an Afrikaan way of life. A quiet, brooding 15-year old Janno (Brent Vermeulen) and his position in his deeply religious farming family is threatened by the adoption of a troubled (Afrikaan) street boy (Alex van Dyk).

In spite of the threat, there is an understated intimacy between the two as separately and together they fight to find/retain their place in an environment where the mother follows God’s will and is fervent in her belief in salvation for the unsaveable.

Austere, shot with the muted colours of early winter, a minimal score and nuanced performances create a restrained yet simmering drama of quiet intensity.

Rating: 76%

Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival