Art and Experience: “Okja” arrived globally last week, though you were probably hard pressed to find it in cinemas. Nonetheless interest was strong around the film. Even in South Korea, where the film was boycotted by three of the country’s major cinema chains due to its simultaneous release on Netflix, “Okja” managed a fourth place finish at the box office. However, the conversation around the film finally appears to be shifting from its release strategy to the message found within.
While described as Bong Joon-Ho going Steven Spielberg, that’s not quite the case with “Okja,” which is frequently harrowing, intense, and delightfully weird. The film follows Mija, a young South Korean girl, who endeavors to rescue to her beloved superpig Okja, from the Monsanto-like corporate giants who have reclaimed their property, after allowing the animal to be raised on the family farm. The Animal Liberation Front also gets involved, and “Okja” quickly becomes a parable for how we treat animals and the dietary choices we make. And in making the movie, Bong Joon-Ho saw his own practices evolve.
During a Q&A at the Museum of Art and Design, the director revealed that part of the research process for the film involved visiting a slaughterhouse in Colorado and watching the 2005 documentary “Our Daily Bread,” which graphically depicts where our food comes from. The experience turned the director vegan for two months… until he returned home.
“When you’re finally [at the slaughterhouse], there’s this smell. There is no smell in the films,” he explained. “Then I flew back to South Korea, and you know, Korea is a BBQ paradise. Every street on every corner is burning meat. I slowly, slowly came back to being a meat eater.”
However, don’t expect Bong Joon-Ho to be eating steaks, as making “Okja” has evolved his thinking on his diet entirely.
“In the process of making this movie, my level of meat consumption has decreased,” he said. “Now I’m gradually becoming a pescatarian.”
“Okja” is now on Netflix, and you might not want to eat any pork for a while after you see it. [Indiewire]