Ok, so I’m breaking protocol here a little by doing a Netflix movie, BUT it’s my blog and technically it’s a new release and it was at Cannes for christ sake so let me live. For those of you who haven’t heard of Okja, don’t have Netflix, or don’t have crazy environmentally conscious friends that have brought it up (shoutout to my Bff Lizzie for turning me onto this film by tweeting about it, and for being my crazy environmentally conscious friend that I need in my life), be prepared to have your heart ripped out, smashed, and then thrown back in your face.
Okja follows the story of Mija and Okja, Mija’s genetically modified super pig living with her in the mountains of South Korea. Mija and her grandfather live a very simple life, but were handed an opportunity to raise this mutant pig for a corporation called Mirando (coincidentally similar to Monsanto, the company currently dominating the GMO markets), run by Tilda Swinton’s Lucy Mirando. The company set out to create a new kind of animal to get cheap meat, and in a flashback explains how they planted 26 super pigs around the world in a contest to see who could raise the greatest super pig. Mija is seemingly unaware that Okja is an animal being raised for slaughter, and is heartbroken when the company finds that Okja is indeed the best pig out of the 26. Mija goes on a quest to get Okja back, who was taken by Mirando to be tested, bred, and eventually slaughtered. As time begins to run out to find Okja, Mija enlists the help of ALF, or the Animal Liberation Front, a PETA-like group with more pure intentions who has been fighting to free Okja and shut down Mirando.
I will first say that I can’t tell if this was meant to be a kids’ film or if it purposely included the silly gimmicks on purpose (Mija clinging to the back of an eighteen wheeler only to be thrown off by traveling through a low tunnel and Jake Gyllenhaal’s entire existence in this film are just a few). And while the writing lacks the much-needed moral dilemma of ALF’s side, much can be overlooked for a film that is culturally aware and still maintains entertainment value. I will continue to fear for the current route Gyllenhaal’s career is taking (seriously, an Alien knock-off and now an ever-intensifying mad scientist?) but I do applaud all who took part in the making of this film. I seriously love when people have great intentions with the script, and Okja does not disappoint on that front. It’s heartening that Bong was able to take a very serious and fairly grotesque issue and make it viewable for audiences (a lot of times when you want to look away the camera cuts at the exact moment), and bring to light an issue important to so many lives.
Even more impressive is the CGI mixed with puppetry to create a beautiful creature that’s akin to Dumbo and E.T.’s love child. Okja’s beautiful eyes are captivating from start to finish. With clever camera tricks we feel like she is larger than life, and we are treated to close-ups of her skin, nose, and those incredible eyes. She looks so real, I swear she resembles my dog…
One problem I do have with the script is the lack of accountability of the ALF. While what they are doing is noble and right, animal rights groups are a double-edged sword (don’t we all know it). While I imagine the inspiration was PETA, it’s important to highlight the downside of these groups, the corruption and well-known maltreatment of animals in these circles. While it’s touched on in one major plot point, the “doing it for the good of others” mentality is never fully addressed, and it leaves us wondering whether or not ALF’s intentions are good.
With all that said, it’s important for us to take a lesson away from Okja, that all living things deserve a chance to live, and most importantly, it is our responsibility to take care of this earth and all of its inhabitants. Be mindful of the ruin human population causes, and do something good to help prevent it (here in Cali it’s impossible not to be environmentally conscious).
While I’m at it, I’d like to shamelessly plug a Kickstarter campaign for a film near and dear to my heart (THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO TO THAT THING TO HELP SAVE THE PLANET, PEOPLE). A friend of mine is making a film about factory farming and its effects on the planet, and they are sooooo close to reaching their goal. If you have a dollar, or two, or hundreds, don’t send it to PETA or Monsanto or anywhere in between, send it to this Kickstarter so the world can hear what Lizzie has to say.
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1762298617/dead-in-the-water#