3 Best South African Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

Craig Foster’s bond with an octopus takes the spotlight in this heartfelt documentary set in the cold seas of South Africa. The title hints at the nature of this bond: the tentacled creature shows the human outsider the ropes in her watery den.

Both parties have an endless curiosity about one another, giving the filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed much fuel for this sentimental doc. My Octopus Teacher features Foster diving in the ocean every day and waxing poetic through voiceovers about the remarkable ability of a wild animal to connect with him. This all takes place amidst his obsessive mapping of said animal’s habitat during what appears to be a mid-life crisis. It’s beautiful, yes, both visually and in its message of nature being something we can connect with to find meaning, but much of the story revolves around what Foster feels the octopus is doing in relation to him, and not about what it’s doing, period. The documentary becomes an exercise in making something that exists peacefully in its own little world all about some guy.

For a film that centers on an unlikely emotional attachment, it does explore the ocean and present the adventures one can embark on due to curiosity. Despite its faults, it manages to be informative and shows off gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Genre: Documentary

Director: James Reed, Philippa Ehrlich, Pippa Ehrlich

While investigating a gold heist in Johannesburg, Chili (S'dumo Mtshali) is jaded after an undercover operation fails spectacularly. With one chance left, he must choose between following the law and protecting the wealth of higher-ups or going against it and helping a heist crew dole out the riches to those in need. Wealth redistribution is at the heart of the film, with greed on all sides thwarting any prospects of prosperity for the city. The action-crime-thriller examines economic inequality via the lead cops trying to effect change, all while leaning into a warm visual style that shifts cameras to mirror the tensions. It's a nice touch to the average Robin Hood and "for the people" narrative, but the CGI choices and generic action scenes can get distracting at times.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Brenda Ngxoli, Deon Lotz, Presley Chweneyagae, S'Dumo Mtshali

Director: Donovan Marsh