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My Octopus Teacher (2020)—South AfricaMy Octopus Teacher (2020)—South Africa

This Netflix Original documentary was the surprise hit of 2020, enjoying all sorts of accolades like "Top Ten Best Movies" by various outlets. When the naturalist and film maker Craig Foster experienced a bad case of burnout, he returned to his boyhood home and childhood memories on the beaches of the tip of South Africa near Cape Town. As a form of therapy, he started free-diving (no wetsuit or supplemental oxygen) in the kelp forests of the 48-degree water. The movie recounts how on one of these dives Foster discovered a wild Common Octopus (there are 300 species), and started returning to its den and plotting its movements every day for almost a year. That led to nothing short of some sort of relationship between man and animal, as the stunning photography shows. Foster narrates his own story and tries to describe how the relationship changed his life, and made him appreciate how we are all connected to nature, and how fragile all life is. In a sort of sub-plot that feels tacked on at the end, this in turn led him to reconnect with his son by passing on to him the joy of this connection with the sea. I won't spoil the story, but will just say that this is a combination love story-tearjerker.

Dan Clendenin:

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