‘Okja’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
In 1995, there was an episode in The Simpsons where Lisa becomes a vegetarian and it shows how food is made in a humorous way. Then, in the Richard Linklater film Fast Food Nation (2006), the food industry is shown in a serious and shocking way. Now, the director of The Host, Bong Joon-Ho, has crafted a film about the food industry like you’ve never seen before that is serious and at the same time may make you laugh.
The film begins in 2007 with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) announcing that her company has developed superpigs that will be used to produce sustainable meat products, and they hold a contest for various farmers to raise the pigs until one of them raises the biggest pig. Fast-forward to the present in a rural area in South Korea and we meet Mija (Anh Seo-Hyun) with the pig that she raised over the past 10 years named Okja. When she finds out that Okja is the biggest pig and the company takes Okja to New York City for a superpig showcase, Mija goes on a journey to bring Okja back to the mountains. Along the way she meets a group of protesters that are part of the Animal Liberation Front, led by a man named Jay (Paul Dano) with another member of the A.L.B. simply named “K” (Steven Yeun) who translates for Mija, and she encounters various other people in the company.
Since Okja is a Netflix original, the film began a debate during the Cannes Film Festival this year if a film should be shown on the big screen first before various other ways. When I watched the film, I thought that it looks like a big-screen film. It is not like a more traditional HBO movie, but it looks like something you would see on TV. While Okja is an American and Korean film, it has a Korean look throughout it.
Bong and Jon Ronson’s screenplay created a lot of funny moments and interesting people. This includes Lucy being the spokesperson of a company that supposedly makes sustainable meat products even though they do not; Jake Gyllenhaal playing an animal-loving scientist who hosts a show to promote the superpig competition, and who we later find out is very abusive to animals; and a truck driver (played by Choi Woo-shik) who transports Okja to the airport while saying some startling things.
During Okja’s press conference at the Cannes Film Festival this year, many people who were involved in the film said that it will impact a lot of people when they watch the film. The film shows things that the food industry does not want you to know and they are as shocking as the things seen in Fast Food Nation (which Paul Dano was also in). Anh said during the press conference that when Okja was filmed, she ate less meat. Also, there is a scene in which a pig gets shot. If you do not want to see that, do not watch this film. Overall it has many aspects that might cause you to become vegetarian and rethink the food industry.
While watching the film is an experience, it will have a bigger impact if you watch it on the big screen. Stay during the credits to see a bonus ending. However, if you are watching the film on Netflix, you can fast forward 1:58:19 for that ending. Okja is available now on Netflix, and the film will also be shown in a special screening during the Vancouver International Film Festival on September 30 at The Centre, with Bong as a special guest.