My Octopus Teacher captured the hearts of millions of people around the world before bagging an Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday.
Accepting the award, an emotional Pippa Ehrlich, who do-directed the documentary with James Reed, thanked the film’s stars, Craig Foster and the little octopus he befriended in False Bay.
“In many ways this really is a tiny, personal story that played out in sea forest 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,” she said.
“I also want to thank the Sea Change Project, which has been in the background supporting us the whole way along and caring so much for the Great African Sea Forest where the octopus lives.”
Reed added: “While such and enormous team made this film in the end, it began and ended with Craig. It’s his story.
“He kind of showed us that, if a man can form a relationship with an octopus, it does, sort of, make you wonder what else is possible.”
Both Ehrlich and Reed paid tribute to their fellow nominees in the documentary category, saying that being in their company was humbling.
My Octopus Teacher has won more than 20 international awards, including best documentary at the British Academy Film Awards (Baftas) and the Producers Guild of America Awards.
It is the first nature documentary to win an Academy Award since The Cove in 2010, and only the second South African film to win a coveted Oscar since Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi in 2006.
Anant Singh, of VideoVision, who worked with Foster on My Hunter’s Heart, which tracked the Khomani San of the Southern Kalahari, the oldest living indigenous tribe in the world, congratulated him and the filmmaking team on winning the Oscar for best documentary.
He added: “It is a huge boost for the South African film industry as the film was shot in Cape Town and went on to capture the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world, profiling the natural beauty of the country.
“The global success of the film has also served to inspire emergent South African filmmakers.”