Anne Rutherford

Playing with Sharks 

Madman Films
by
18 June 2021

Any film about shark conservation faces a dilemma: how to de-sensationalise an animal whose cinematic charisma relies on the combination of thrill and fear. What reels us in as viewers is the excitement of an up-close, full-frontal encounter with a dangerous predator. Film scholar Tom Gunning talks about this as ‘lust for the eyes’, when an image ‘rushes forward to meet the viewer’, provoking ‘a complicated sort of excitement bordering on terror’.

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This week we turn to My Octopus Teacher, a documentary that has proven controversial since its publication on Netflix in late 2020. As Anne Rutherford discusses in her luminous review, My Octopus Teacher follows the descent of Craig Foster, naturalist and filmmaker, into the briny world of a particular octopus. The documentary captures the burgeoning affinity between free-diver and cephalopod, prompting questions of anthropomorphism and to what extent humankind can establish a meaningful connection with the animal kingdom.

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