Documentary director Alexandre O Philippe tells us how Paul the Psychic Octopus came to become a cultural phenomenon ahead of tonight's screening.


Nerds, football fans, betting dorks, and anyone with 2 eyes and a penchant for 8 tentacles will delight in The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

Friend of the festival and film director Alexandre O Philippe spoke to EIFFtv yesterday ahead of the first screening. Having visited EIFF in 2010 with the cult hit The People vs George Lucas, he's back with another dose of pop culture.

"The film, in a nutshell, is all about Paul," says O Philippe, "It's the official, exclusive story of Paul the Psychic Octopus who predicted the outcome of 8 consecutive games during the football World Cup in 2010. And of course, became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon."

The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus is a fairly self-explanatory title, but there's lots more going on beneath its simple premise. "I think this film is the perfect opportunity to revisit that story, but also get into some deeper questions. Was Paul really a psychic, or was he just a very lucky octopus?"

Opening with a funeral march for the late, great Paul, O Philippe delves into this pop culture phenomenon with farcical aplomb. The characters he interviews along the way range from the Sea Life centre employees in Oberhausen, Germany, to betting agents and journalists who followed and covered the story. There's even some controversy between zookeepers and across borders.

"It's funny," says O Philippe, "because over the course of my career, the documentaries I've made, for some strange reason, have stories so unique and quirky that they seem to come with these kinds of characters. In a sense, maybe the story is what attracts these characters. "

Animal mediums contact Paul with varying takes on his personality while Italy and Edinburgh enter a battle of wills regarding the legendary octopus' place of birth. One enterprising Russian was willing to pay €1 million for ownership of Paul, who even has his own agent, Chris Davis, along with multiple lucrative merchandising contracts and even a record deal.

As one Sea Life centre employee puts it, "Paul was - for an Oracle - quite young… and for an octopus, really old."

Fortunately, people of all ages can enjoy this quirky tale of the little octopus that could.

Director Alexandre O. Philippe will appear for a Q&A at tonight's screening of The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus, 8.45pm at the Filmhouse. The film screens a second time tomorrow, Saturday 23 June, at 3.05pm at Edinburgh Cineworld.

Tickets can be purchased online, in person at the Filmhouse Box Office, and by phone on 0131 623 8030.

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