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I just saw Bong Joon Ho’s new film ‘Okja’, and yes, I recommend it. There are not many films around these days that will have me laugh and cry in the span of two hours. This film of social conscience did that.
I normally avoid movies that rely on CGI. But for the story that’s told in Okja, it’s necessary, and there’s only one CGI character in the film, and that’s Okja herself. I was only a few minutes into the film when I completely forgot that the star of the film is a CGI.
‘Okja’ is on Netflix now. I’m going to avoid spoilers here. The story revolves around Mija, a girl of about 14 who lives with her farmer grandfather in the countryside of South Korea. Megacorporation Mirando has used extreme genetic modification in its corporate laboratories to produce what it calls a ‘super pig’, a massive pig hybrid that tends to be shy and gentle, and tends to bond with humans – just like pigs.
In a clever PR move, Mirando sends 26 baby super pigs to 26 countries across the globe, where they will stay and grow up with foster families for 10 years. At the 10-year mark, Mirando will collect all the super pigs, choose the largest and best of the lot, and introduce their new food product – the super pig – to the world at an elaborate unveiling in New York City.
Mija was 4 years old when she and her grandfather receive baby Okja. Over the course of 10 years, Mija and Okja, in this idyllic setting of the countryside, forge a deep, loving bond. But one day, Mirando arrives for Okja, who, as it turned out, grew to be the largest and most impressive super pig. They sneak off with her while Mija is in the forest, visiting her parents’ graves. Then, the story begins.
Mija flees her grandfather’s farm to find Okja and bring her home. As she closes in on Okja’s location in the U.S., she encounters Animal Liberation Front activists, who also want to liberate Okja.
One of the most emotional and disturbing parts of the film takes place in the slaughterhouse where all the super pigs – not just the 26 that were fostered – are brought for the first killings of this new breed. Ho created a slaughterhouse environment that’s spot on, full of fear and misery and dread and gore.
One by one, these loving, sensitive, shy, beautiful beings is placed on a conveyer, prodded with electricity, and brought to the kill. Just like in real life slaughter, they see the others die before them, then become terrified, fighting for their lives, screaming, before being killed, carved up, and packaged in plastic wrap.
Doesn’t sound like a fun movie. But it’s the tenderness and determination of Mija and the ALF activists, their passion to save Okja’s life and stop all animal suffering, as well as Okja’s beautiful spirit, that commands the film and left me speechless.
Ho did a brilliant job with this film. The actors do their parts perfectly: some you love, and some you feel compelled to hate. There is a hilarious scene – and I mean fall-on-the-floor hilarious – at the Seoul shopping mall, earlier in the film, that spotlights the raw guts and aptitude of ALF activists. You can’t go wrong with a runaway super pig in an Asian mall, with a John Denver soundtrack superimposed over the scene.
Check this one out. Ho is making a strong statement. And yes, I think it’s obvious that he’s striving to make us change our thinking about our food choices. Don’t be one of the people who doesn’t want to face the reality of this, for fear that it might be too painful to see. See it, understand it, release yourself from misinformation and denial, and evolve.
‘Okja’ is a great film, full of laughs and tears and great acting, even if it doesn’t make you think about the bloody barbarity of the slaughterhouse. Even if you go for a burger afterwards, see it. Even if you’re of the kind of mental incongruity that allows you to love one animal with all your heart, and then eat another, see this film.
Much love,Barbie xo