Ramaphosa’s hope for ‘My Octopus Teacher’ Oscars victory

President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute on Monday to My Octopus Teacher's production team following their Oscars victory, categorically congratulating the documentary makers for "opening a window into the natural beauty and diversity of South Africa’s oceans and marine ecosystems".

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  • Ramaphosa congratulated South Africa’s Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher following its Sunday Oscars win, stating he hopes it inspires change for marine conservation.
  • My Octopus Teacher won the 93rd Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature on Sunday, beating other four remarkable documentaries, namely: The Mole Agent (Chile), Collective (Romania), Crip Camp (US), and Time (US)
  • This comes just a week after Ramaphosa joined more than 40 world leaders during Joe Biden’s virtual Leaders Summit on Climate to discuss the global climate change effort in the run-up to the next international climate conference, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland in November. 

“Congratulations once again to the production team of #MyOctopusTeacher for winning ‘Best Documentary Feature’ at the #Oscars – the documentary has opened a window into the natural beauty and diversity of South Africa’s oceans and marine ecosystems,” Ramaphosa wrote on Twitter. 

“We hope it will encourage a greater appreciation and advocacy for marine conservation at a time when ocean degradation is a growing global problem.”

Disruptive, more diverse 93rd Oscars

The Oscars took place Sunday (April 25), two months later than usual, and – after a disruptive year for the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic – was one not short of wild and unpredictable moments.

It was an in-person event which took place simultaneously at both the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and the Union Station in Los Angeles.

Among the many firsts this year include: two women nominated for best director, an all-black producing team nominated for best picture and two actors of Asian descent nominated for best actor. 

In what appears to be a practical step towards a more inclusive and diverse Oscars ceremony, Nomadland took home the best picture, best director for Chloe Zhao (making her only the second woman ever to claim the award) and best actress trophy for Frances McDormand.

Anthony Hopkins took home the Best Actor award – an older winner ever at age 83 – for his role as a dementia ridden man in The Father, thus making Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous Oscars loss harder to phantom.

A favourite to win the Best Actor category, Boseman gave his very last stellar performance as Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom before his death last August to long battle with colon cancer. He subsequently picked up a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for the role.

Meanwhile, Daniel Kaluuya took home the best supporting actor for his role in Judas And The Black Messiah, while Yuh-Jung Youn won best supporting actress for her role in Minari, thus becoming the first Korean to win an Oscar.

However, it was South African documentary, My Octopus Teacher that got the Twitter streets buzzing the most – from our very own President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Angeles National Forest giving it the nod to the likes of renowned British film critic Guy Lodge, and Norway’s ‘green’ politician Erik Solheim to the producer of Judas and the Black Messiah Sev Ohanian singing its praises and the official Twitter Movies account itself further igniting the streets days earlier with the simple question below:

About My Octopus Teacher  

Ten years in the making, My Octopus Teacher began as a personal video project by South African filmmaker Craig Foster, and tells story of the unusual bond between him and a wild octopus he encounters while free diving in the Great African Sea Forest off the tip of South Africa.

Although the eight-limbed sea creature rarely survives more than 24 months in the wild, Foster and his fellow directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed had enough time to be profoundly impacted by the female octopus in question and follow the creature in her natural habitat: a cold underwater off the coast of Cape Town. Foster’s voice narrates their adventures. 

Part of a slate of films in this year’s Oscars lineup that presented animals as beings as similar to us (humans) “in a lot of ways”, since it premiered on the streaming platform Netflix in September, My Octopus Teacher has become a viral hit – so much so that American stand-up comedian Amy Schumer recommended it to her 10 million plus Instagram followers.

American actress and singer Brittany Snow chimed in on Schumer’s post, adding that she’s “never cried more,” while fellow actor Justin Theroux said, “Concur. Had me in tears. Bye calamari.”

Although Netflix does not release viewer data, it has listed it in the top 10 most watched in Israel, and Australia, including South Africa.

The film has since became a runway hit, earning  among others top documentary at the Producers Guild of America Awards and Best Documentary at the BAFTAs.

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