September 19th, 2022

My Octopus Teacher: The documentary from 2020 in many ways is very much like the TIFF movie Patrick and the Whale, just reviewed last week. This won the Best Documentary Oscar back in 2021. Craig Foster grew up in South Africa by the Cape of Storms but as an adult starting doing other things in film making.

Struggling in life with a wife and son, he decided to get back to basics and started free diving around his old haunts. The water gets down to 8C at his home, and he dives with no wet suit. That is REALLY cold water, and he talks about getting his body used to it. As to the lack of wet suit, he wants to touch, feel and be immersed in the water. He comes upon a female octopus and decides to visit her each day, every day for the year. The common octopus only lives a year, and so he decides to document his interactions with her. The rest of the film undercovers what he finds with the octopus, documenting her life and how they have a connection. There are unexpected turns as the undersea world shows itself to be a hunt or be hunted environment. She is skilled at both. There are life lessons to be learned for him as well. The filming when you realize that much of it is done by Foster himself free diving is quite something. Like Patrick and the Whale you see things underwater that are amazing. Images, scenes, unexpected drama are all created and followed. Well worth viewing. It can be found on Netflix.

You Don’t Know Jack: Crave is showing a 2010 movie based on the life of Dr Jack Kevorkian, also known as Doctor Death. He was a Michigan based doctor, who became known for assisted suicide for his terminally ill patients. This defied the law, somewhat raising perplexing ethical and legal issues. Movies have dealt with this subject matter before like in 1981 with Richard Dreyfuss in Whose Life Is It Anyway, and then the TIFF film for me in 2017 Euphoria starring Eva Green and Alicia Vikander as sisters. A quality cast lead by Al Pacino as the Doctor also has Susan Sarandon and John Goodman.

The movie is well done, and shows the legal trials, determination and arguments of both sides. The doctor was very intelligent, legally astute and clear on his goals in what he was doing. He recognized the oddity of a patient who was unconscious can have their life ended, however if the patient was conscious that the person assisting could be charged with murder, or injecting a lethal substance. Michigan legislatively decided to ban the practice of assisted suicide and the doctor chose to defy the law on the TV news show 60 Minutes. Millions of people saw him provide assistance to someone who has decided to end their life. The issue gets distorted when the general public are made aware of it. The religious people see the Doctor as playing God. They protest him, with banners and signs disrupting his practice. The State is involved in following him, seizing his files without a warrant or justification. All these things against his individual rights. When does the State have the ability to take away the individual’s right to choose their own destiny, or the way by which they wish to leave this Earth? There are very nasty diseases and physical ailments, but what about mental health? Where does one draw the line? Should we be drawing a line at all? All of it raises the issues that are thought-provoking and should be discussed. A movie worth watching if you can find it. Not light entertainment by any means, but movies can also be educational.

The Last Tourist: This 2021 documentary explores trends is tourism, with more people taking cheaper flights to get to more of the same destinations. There are more of us on this planet than ever before, with many travelling to places near and far. But the same places. Machu Pichu, Paris, Italy, South Africa, the Taj Mahal etc. As one of the people who identifies himself as an avid traveller who wants to see the world, I was intrigued to see the perspective of this film. I was aware about how animals in certain cultures are captured and used for tourism, like dolphins harvested in The Cove and used in Caribbean resorts, or the elephants who are in shows and ridden in India, tiger cubs etc. I make a point of not partaking, because the lives of these animals is filled with abuse, starvation, and in effect breaking them to perform. But I had not thought about the area of North American youths volunteering in a foreign country, like at an orphange as being a source of increased child abandonment. People in the country are making money from the volunteers, but pay other natives to give up their children. The number of orphanages has skyrocketed, and many of the children have at least one parent who is still living. Then with sheer numbers places are being overwhelmed with the tourist location needing to limit the number of tourists allowed. But there are also challenges with locals in that area, especially with cruise ships who don’t benefit at all from the tourists. Cruise participants are encouraged only to shop with identified stores, who provide kick backs to the cruise line, rather than individual local vendors. So the money stays withinn limited hands not helping the locals and the local economy. The film speaks to this as modern day colonialism. It also is thought provoking, making one re-think the next trip and how to spend your tourist dollars.