After watching the Netflix original movie Okja, I’m an emotional wreck and looking at food in a whole new light.
In 2007, Lucy Mirando became CEO of the Mirando Corporation where she announced that her organization had been breeding a special kind of superpig. Twenty-six of the best pigs would be sent to locations around the world, and ten years later, one will be crowned the winner.
In 2017 in South Korea, a young girl named Mija risks everything to save her best friend – one of the genetic superpigs named Okja – from the multi-national Mirando Corporation who have captured Okja to bring to New York City for the Best SuperPig Festival. Along her quest, Mija encounters a group from the Animal Liberation Front who join her to save Okja from slaughter.
Before you question whether this is pure propaganda or not, I’m here to tell you it isn’t.
Okja isn’t here to slap you on the wrist for eating meat or to tell you that the consumption of animals is morally wrong, it’s that the mass production of food through capitalism is unethical.
Okja competed for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival where it received both boos (for it’s Netflix release) and a standing ovation. The controversy surrounding this film, along with other Netflix releases, involves the unorthodox experience of online streaming versus a theather release.
The Indiana Daily Student hails Okja as a triumph, describing it as part Spielberg and part Miyazaki. While the majority of headlines about Okja focus more on how it will upset you, people are missing the fact that it’s also touching hearts. “Think E.T. with a supermarket slant; the battle of innocence and earnestness against corporate profit margins.”
Director Bong Joon Ho (The Host, Snowpiercer) explained to BBC that first and foremost he wants to explore new worlds through storytelling.
“We create psychological border-lines to avoid discomforts, so we separate our views of animals. Those we perceive as pets and the ones we place in our shopping carts are the same animals but we choose to separate them.”
Bong’s inspiration for one of the film’s most graphic scenes came from a personal visit to a commercial slaughterhouse; an experience he described as “absolutely necessary”.
“I wanted to crumble these borders and make the audience feel uncomfortable. It is witnessing your family being dragged into a slaughterhouse. Compared to my experience of visiting a real-life slaughterhouse, the film scenes were much milder and were expressed in a toned-down manner.”
Let’s be clear again. Bong isn’t interested in shaming meat lovers in this film, so take a breath.
“In my movie, Mija’s favorite food is chicken stew. I didn’t make this film to oppose meat. Whether one is vegan or not is a matter of individual choice,” Bong explained, adding that he wanted audiences to ‘witness and understand’ how meat was being mass produced. This is the state of capitalism today and this is what I wanted to convey.”
While Okja is very self-aware, it’s not force-feeding you it’s agenda, but asking you to look at this not-too-distant dystopian future. The film hasn’t converted me into a Vegan, but it’s made me more aware of what’s going on.