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Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix film Okja premieres at Cannes

I always find it simultaneously weird and exciting when Korean acting and directing talent work with American ones, because it really does feel like my two worlds are colliding, when they used to be wholly separate. Director Bong Joon-ho has helmed the most well-known of such joint Korean-American productions, with 2013’s Snowpiercer and now Netflix’s Okja, which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

When I first read the plot description of the new action-adventure film featuring a large pig as a main character, I was reminded of other stories featuring children seeking to rescue and protect their non-human companions, like E.T. or Pete’s Dragon. But, as can be expected of Bong Joon-ho, elements that might seem similar have been injected with a dose of the bizarre.

Thirteen-year-old actress Ahn Seo-hyun (Village: Secret of Achiara) leads an all-star ensemble cast as a young girl from Gangwon-do who has grown up with and cared for a super-pig, the titular Okja. Unbeknownst to her, Okja is part of a project conducted by global corporation Mirando, which takes the super-pig away to New York. Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange) plays another villain for Bong Joon-ho as the CEO of Mirando, and will be joined in the antagonist camp by Jake Gyllenhaal (Life), portraying a zoologist working for the corporation and the mastermind behind the super-pig project.

Ahn Seo-hyun will be aided in her rescue efforts by a guerrilla animal rights organization called ALF. They seem like PETA on crack, and use violence to forward their agenda. Paul Dano (Youth) leads ALF, and its members include Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Lily Collins (To the Bone). Although ALF first extends its hand to Ahn Seo-hyun, it does look like they have their own agenda regarding Okja, so we’ll have to just wait and see whether they remain in her camp, or if they turn into one more enemy for Ahn Seo-hyun’s character. The supporting cast also includes Korean actors Byun Hee-bong (Madame Antoine) and Choi Woo-shik (Train to Busan).

There’s been some controversy over the place of Netflix movies competing at the Cannes Film Festival, and technical difficulties at the premiere of Okja forced the film to restart. But the film reportedly received a standing ovation at its premiere, and the reviews cropping up on English-language sites are widely positive, so I’m excited to see it once it becomes available on Netflix on June 28.

Via Naver Movies

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The trailer looks so good

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I hope there can be review about the movie because we all can watch legally right away.

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This doesn't look like something I would usually watch but I actually do want to watch it from the trailer.

It's giving me goosebumps how they change between the sweet interactions between ASH and Okja and then the plain creepy scenes

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Agreed. I wasn't planning to watch it, but the trailer might have convinced me. It looks like it's going to be weird in all the ways that I like--so psyched.

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I know what you mean, that's why I want to watch it too. It looks intriguingly weird haha

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I'm not even korean, but so proud of little Ahn Seo hyun! And the trailer looks pretty good, amazing editing.
And Paul Dano <33.

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I'm always rooting for Korean films in Cannes especially. "Okja" is in competition for the Palme d'Or like "The Handmaiden" last year.
It's no surprise with two of Korea's genius filmmakers who are also well known internationally.

I'm excited for Ahn Seo hyun too. I hope she did well.

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I am so excited for this! And I'm so happy it's going to be on Netflix. No need to wait and see which local theatres will show it.

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The controversy against Netflix is really ridiculous. For years and years french cinema, Hollywood and co refused giving the chance to many varied kind of cinemas, either because they do not have the right lead with the right skin color, or because it doesn't tell the "right" story. Long live to Netflix and I'm definitely going to watch Okja.

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I would still say though, not releasing a movie on big screen seems like such a big waste for a movie with good cinematography. It's already looking so good on my laptop, so I wish the same opportunity was there for the audience to see it on a wider screen. Netflix is good and all, but limiting it to just their channel seems like this is just a tv movie, not a real movie movie. Of course I have no beef with the production house itself, just that I feel it should be released on cinemas too.

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It was released/will be released as far as I am aware on cinema. It's just that netflix also does a release on thier platform.

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Oh really? That's a good news then.

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This looks so good and so weird. I love it!! I said it earlier that this almost seems like a Wes Anderson film on steroids. It has a quirky sensibility but then also comes across as dark and unsettling. I really liked Snowpiercer when I saw it in the theatres so I am hoping this will be just as good.

He must be one of those directors that actors love to work with since he got Tilda Swinton back for this film. I would watch this movie if for nothing else but her. She is so good!!

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you're right -- it is somewhat of a "culture clash" to watch this preview... it's like watching a kdrama gone western mainstream? of course, Snowpiercer was the first, tho that movie seemed mainstream with korean actors injected -- this one seems more like a korean production with western actors/characters injected.

also, as you mentioned the controversy of this (tv) production being nominated as a Cannes entry is a mind twist of sorts. the culture clash between such a traditional movie award guild and Netflix and Amazon (originally non-movie producing companies) productions being considered in the same category...

geeze, i am showing my age -- it's like saying digital animation shouldn't be considered alongside traditional cell painted animation or something, right? i'm just saying it's rather weird to me...
: D

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I was reading up on the hubbub at Cannes. Apparently people were booing the Netflix logo during the opening as well. Plus, it seems that director Pedro Almodovar, the Cannes jury president, 'snubbed' the film as a contender to receive the palme d'or award since the film won't be shown in theatres and is therefore not deserving. On top of which, streaming movies won't even be eligible to be viewed at the festival beginning next year at all! Talk about an industry scaring away its competitors.

Amazon so far, as a production company of films, has released their films the traditional route and then streamed them. Case in point Manchester by the Sea. So they are not really in the same boat as Netflix at the moment.

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Lol, how petty. Hollywood is really something. Not to mention, I feel a lot of what's shown at Cannes probably doesn't get a wide release anyway...

It seems like people are mad Netflix might be able to get a larger audience for their more indie releases AND snag an award or two as well.

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Exactly my feelings. Tilda Swinton commented something similar that most Cannes films don't get wide releases anyways and aren't seen outside the festival. It's just really petty IMO. The format a film is seen on doesn't negate the quality. Yes, large screens are the preferred viewing format, but who is to say that a movie isn't just as enjoyable on our tvs.

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Their concern seems more specifically the politics around the French cinema release, not more generally. Cannes entries would generally get a release there - not least because so many of them are the type of film they'd show there! It's generally a major scandal if the main competition isn't overburdened with French product or 'directors the festival likes'.

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I hear what you're saying and I agree with the sentiment, but when it comes to France, the way they deal with movies versus TV is a bit different from what it is in the States.
For one thing, most French people don't feel there is a need for Netflix. Part of that is cultural (going to the movies is a big part of social life and frequentation has actually been on a steady increase this past few years) and the other is just money: it costs more to get Netflix (10 euros a month) than to get what they call a Free contract, which gives you TV, Internet and phone service for 15 euros a month.
The second half of that is something called "The French Exception", which is a measure France put into place to protect its own movie culture. There is a certain percentage of movies shown in theatres that must be made by French people, and that means foreign films have to agree to a French theatrical release before they can receive any French awards (and Cannes is a French award, not a Hollywood one, even though Hollywood is very present).
This is to ensure a certain fairness in representation, so that, you know, a young Muslim man from the suburbs can go see a movie where he is the hero, as opposed to only American blockbusters where he is a terrorist (I'm simplifying the issue, but that gives you an idea as to why that rule is important).
There is also a delay between the time a movie is shown in theatre and the time when it is allowed to be shown on TV or a streaming site (36 months, which is insane, and a lot of people are working to shorten that time).
The problem is that Netflix is trying to bypass the French Exception when every other competitor is being respectful of it (Amazon, Sony, Italy, China, everyone). Basically, they're asking for special treatment because they are Netflix, and the Cannes Festival made the mistake of letting them into the competition without reading the fine print, thinking that Netflix was going to follow the rules and release its movies in theatres. Netflix dug its heels in and now the festival is back-peddling. There's been a lot of miscalculations on both sides.

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The rules surrounding Cannes entries is very strict. 3 years before streaming is aloud. Wow.

I understand the French Exeption, it is important to preserve culture and French Cinema is a major deal, I mean where would film and film criticism be if not for Cahiers du Cinema?

But, I don't think format should be the end all be all for a film. Whether its shown in French theatres or on French tvs, as long as it gets to be enjoyed by the public. I don't care where a film is made or what language it's in - as long as it speaks to me that is all that matters ?

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wow, so complicated... i had no idea!

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Oh, didn't recognize Lily Collins right away. Ahn Seo Hyun grew so much since Dream High and Babyfaced Beauty :) Tilda looks great as usual.
PETA is a militant group.

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Tilda always looks great. I love her, I think she is seriously underrated.

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Lily Collins looks gorgeous in Cannes.

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I'm kind of sad, given the scale of the story, that I'll only get the option of seeing this on a TV screen but given Netflix seem to throw the money and hand over creative control it's unsurprising Bong chose to go that route given the mess over Snowpiercer.

I'm really looking forward to it - The Guardian gave it 5 stars and I talk to a few people who're over in Cannes and they were really positive too.

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I know being a complete bleeding heart animal lover, that I will get hyper invested in this. I'm scared that if it has a sad ending I'll cry too much.

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Same. I won't watch until I can get spoilers that ensure a happy ending. I cry normally for sad human stories but sob uncontrollably for sad animal stories.

Regarding Netflix, very glad they're producing these. Makes it possible for me to watch, with subtitles, legally.

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Also same. My heart already feels constricted with fear for Okja.

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The trailer with that song by the Mamas and the Papas is freaking brilliant! I can hardly wait to see this!

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Damn a Korean movie (despite being Netflix) got A-list actors and actresses like Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal to star, and not even as main characters? That's some producer or director right there.

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What's his point? Don't eat Pigs???

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Not having watched the film, but, judging by the trailer the pig/story is an allegory for consumerism and human greed.

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I thought I spotted Choi Woo shik when I first saw the trailer.
I am looking forward to this, should be good.

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I really want to watch this but also really NEED a happy ending. Like happy, happy. Not sad happy. OKJA RUNNING-IN-A-FIELD-WITH-THEIR-LITTLE-HUMAN-GIRL-HAPPY, YOU HEAR ME?!

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Don't think I will be eating pork tonight...

It's so rare to see such a young actress featured in the action scenes shown in the trailer!

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Yeah I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those where you feel like crud every time you eat meat for like a week afterward...

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The trailer looks really good. Not something i would be interested in, but now, I'm caught.

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The music in the trailer is just perfect. Excited to see this. I happen to hear about this movie because they were filming near where I live. Nice to see it's finally coming out! :)

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Eh... that looks actually good.

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That is a really bizarre poster but it is spot on in tone to Snowpiercer! Cool it's going to be available on Netflix!

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Oooh, this looks great! Gives me a bit of a Spirited Away feel, for some reason (little girl fighting mysterious powers and overcoming unnatural obstacles to be reunited with a pig? :P)

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