Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
Thessaloniki Doc 2020
Docs Against Gravity, EarthxFilm, Jackson Hole, Guangzhou Doc
The doc has been nominated for the Academy Awards.
A man bonds with a normally solitary cephalopod.
Seeking to reconnect with the natural world, filmmaker Craig Foster begins to freedive in the kelp forest off of South Africa’s Cape of Storms. In the process, he grows curious about an octopus he chances across, and slowly begins to develop an unusual cross-species friendship. Establishing that he is no threat to the young female, Foster is surprised to find the octopus seemingly as curious about him as he is about her, reaching out to explore his hand and swim with him. Over just under a year – the typical lifespan of an octopus – Foster returns daily, visiting with and observing his new friend as she hunts, cleverly disguises herself from nearby predators, and even plays with schools of fish, further demonstrating this solitary creature is not exactly antisocial, after all. While undeniably a crowdpleaser and critical darling, Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed’s film is, at its heart, a carefully constructed – one might say manipulative – project, leaning too much on anthropomorphism and sentimentality. While the transcendence it aims for feels unearned and manufactured, the doc nevertheless remains an appealing watch as a whole.