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Flash Movie Review: My Octopus Teacher

I CAN APPRECIATE AND RESPECT ALL animals, but the one I like the least is an octopus. Seriously, I do not know why I have had this attitude since I was a little boy. Whether an octopus or squid and I immediately get a feeling of disgust and dread. Whenever I had a school field trip to the aquarium, I would always quickly walk past the exhibit that had live octopi. Back then I would tell people the creatures were gross. I do not know, but there is something alien about them; as if they were dropped down from outer space to lurk down at the bottom of the seas, being sneaky and sinister. Even when they were depicted in movies in a friendly way, I did not care. There were enough films already where they were mean man eaters, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Though I loved the movie The Little Mermaid, I did not care for the character Ursula with her long tentacle legs. And do not get me started about calamari, UGH! I cannot sit with anyone who would order that dish; it just sounds and looks nauseating to me. My apologies to you foodies who love the “delicacy.”     BY NOW YOU MUST BE WONDERING why, with my strong dislike of squids and octopi, would I ever sit and watch a film that has the word octopus right there in the title. It is a very good question; one I myself do not have a good answer for. I was between chores over the weekend and wanted to take a break. My time was limited, so I did not want to sit through a long movie. Going through the search function, the streaming service had a list of recommendations for me based on the things I had already seen with them. There was a sci-fi picture that looked okay, but it was over two hours long. When I moved the cursor off that selection, the next one was for this film. Before I realized what the title was, my eye was attracted to the blues in the trailer. The narrator was calm as he spoke with the slightest of accents. I saw that this picture was just shy of an hour and a half which was a plus; maybe, most of the story was done on land, I hoped. Another plus was the fact it was a documentary, set in a different part of the world. I hit play on the remote and settled into what would become a revelation for me.      WHILE SWIMMING IN THE WATERS OFF the coast of South Africa, cinematographer and director Craig Foster (My Hunter’s Heart, Into the Dragon’s Lair), discovered the oddest thing sitting at the bottom of a kelp forest. It looked like a ball of seashells until it moved. Written and directed by James Reed (Rise of the Warrior Apes, Jago: A Life Underwater) and newcomer Pippa Ehrlich, this film festival winning documentary provided me with the biggest surprise this past year. Here I was ambivalent towards this picture and after several early scenes I was pulled into another world beneath the ocean. Because Craig came across as vulnerable and looked like just an average guy, he was perfect to spearhead this production. The cinematography was gorgeous, both in vast wide angle shots as well as the intimate ones. There was very little dialogue that could be considered cutesy or pandering to the viewer; the entire time I felt I was privileged for being allowed to watch Craig’s life as he encountered this amazing creature. Yes, I said amazing because I now have such a new appreciation for an octopus. I can go on and on praising this unbelievable, wonderful movie; however, all that needs to be said is the number of stars I am giving it. When was the last time you saw me give this rating to a film; it has been such a long time, but with this documentary it has been worth the wait, in my opinion.

4 stars    

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