Official release poster
|Directed by||Bong Joon-ho|
|Story by||Bong Joon-ho|
|Music by||Jung Jae-il|
|Edited by||Yang Jin-mo|
|Box office||$2 million|
Okja is a 2017 action-adventure film about a girl who raises a genetically modified superpig. Directed by Bong Joon-ho and co-written by Bong and Jon Ronson, the film is a South Korean-American production and stars an ensemble cast headed by South Korean child actress Ahn Seo-hyun, South Korean actors Byun Hee-bong, Yoon Je-moon, and Choi Woo-shik, and Hollywood actors Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
In 2007, self-styled 'environmentalist' Lucy Mirando becomes CEO of the Mirando Corporation, succeeding her twin sister Nancy. She announces that they have been breeding a special kind of “super pig”. The twenty-six produced specimens are sent to farmers in different locations around the world, and ten years later, one of them will be crowned the winner of a competition to breed the best pig.
In 2017, a young girl named Mija lives in South Korea with her grandfather and their super pig, Okja. They are visited by Mirando spokesperson and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox, who declares Okja the best super pig and announces they will take her to New York City. Mija's grandfather presents her with a gold pig and explains to her that he saved up money to buy the solid gold item to replace Okja when she was taken away. Devastated, Mija runs away to Seoul to find Okja, where she sees her as she is being loaded onto a truck. Mija chases down the truck but it is intercepted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). In the resulting chaos, Mija and Okja run away but are eventually saved by the ALF, led by Jay. Jay uses another ALF member, K, as a translator to tell Mija that they plan to put a recording device in Okja's ear and let her be re-captured by the Mirando corporation to show how they mistreat their animals. Mija tells them to return her to the mountains but K tells the group that Mija agrees with their plan. They abandon her, and Okja is recaptured.
To minimise the PR damage to the company, Lucy pays for Mija to come to New York to be reunited with her pig. Okja is taken to a laboratory where she is forcibly bred with another super pig and flesh is taken from her for a taste test. After the ALF sees the footage, K reveals that he lied to the rest of the group about Mija's support of the plan. Jay beats K, and expels him from the ALF.
In New York City, Mija is forced to agree to the wishes of the Mirando Corporation. Jay slips into her room and tells her that they plan to rescue Okja while on stage. A parade is put on by the Mirando Corporation. Okja, blinded and battered, does not recognize Mija and attacks her. Jay tries to hurt Okja, but Mija prevents him, calming Okja down. A video of the mistreatment of Okja is screened by the ALF to the public, who quickly turn on the Mirando Corporation. Lucy surrenders the company to her twin sister Nancy, who proceeds to call Black Chalk, a private security firm to crack down on ALF members. Mija and the ALF attempt to escape with Okja but are overpowered by the mercenaries. Okja is recaptured and the ALF members are arrested, except for Mija and Jay who are rescued by K. Nancy, having returned to control the company, closes the underground lab, scraps all of Lucy's promotional marketing and starts full-time operations at their slaughterhouse.
Jay and K take Mija to find Okja at the processing plant and find her being forced up a ramp leading into a slaughterhouse. Mija finds Okja as she is about to be killed and shows the Mirando employee a photograph of herself with a baby Okja which prompts him to stop. Nancy arrives and Mija offers the golden pig in exchange for Okja's life. Nancy agrees to the deal and has Jay and K arrested. As Mija and Okja are escorted away, a pair of superpigs manages to push their newborn through the fence, and Okja hides it within her mouth to take it away.
Back in the countryside, Mija resumes her life with her grandfather, Okja, and the new piglet.
In a post-credits scene, Jay is released from prison and gets on board a bus with K and the other members of the organization. With their newest member Kim Woo-shik, a former driver for Mirando Corporation, they plan to disrupt a major meeting involving all of the Mirando shareholders.
- Ahn Seo-hyun as Mija, a young farmgirl who takes care of Okja.
- Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando, the eccentric powerful CEO of the Mirando Corporation looking to profit from Okja.
- Swinton also plays Nancy Mirando, Lucy's twin sister, the cruel former CEO of the Mirando Corporation.
- Paul Dano as Jay, the leader of an animal-rights activist group, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Johnny Wilcox, a disturbed zoologist and TV personality.
- Byun Hee-bong as Heebong, Mija's grandfather.
- Steven Yeun as K, an animal-rights activist and ALF member, who serves as translator between Mija and the rest of the ALF.
- Giancarlo Esposito as Frank Dawson, an associate with the Mirando Corporation.
- Lily Collins as Red, an animal-rights activist and ALF member.
- Yoon Je-moon as Mundo Park, a Korean representative of the Mirando Corporation.
- Shirley Henderson as Jennifer, Lucy's assistant.
- Daniel Henshall as Blond, animal-rights activist, ALF member, and boyfriend of Silver.
- Devon Bostick as Silver, animal-rights activist, ALF member, and boyfriend of Blond.
- Choi Woo-shik as Kim Woo-shik, a young driver for the Mirando Corporation.
Development and production
In October 2015, it was announced that director Bong Joon-ho's next film would feature a South Korean female lead and a cast of English-speaking supporting actors, with filming set in New York. On November 10, 2015 it was picked up by Netflix and Plan B Entertainment with a budget of $50 million, with production starting in late 2016 for release in 2017. Darius Khondji joined the film as cinematographer in February 2016.
Bong sought out Welsh author Jon Ronson to help with the script. Working with a rough draft of the story, Ronson helped develop the English-speaking characters.
Principal photography began on April 22, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. It moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for more filming on July 31, 2016. Director Bong Joon-ho visited a real Colorado slaughterhouse to prepare for the film's own slaughterhouse sequence, an experience that converted Bong and producer Dooho Choi into temporary vegans.
Bong has called Okja "a very shy and introverted animal. It's a unique animal that we've not seen before."
Okja had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2017. During the first few minutes of its screening at its Cannes premiere, the film was met with boos mixed with some applause twice: once when the Netflix logo appeared on the screen and again during a technical glitch which projected the film in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes. The festival later issued an apology to its filmmakers for projecting the film incorrectly. However, despite the initially negative audience response, the film received a four-minute standing ovation at its end.
On the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 217 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.54/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Okja sees Bong Joon-ho continuing to create defiantly eclectic entertainment – and still hitting more than enough of his narrative targets in the midst of a tricky tonal juggling act." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Okja was named as one of the New York Times's ten most influential films of the decade in November 2019. Critic A.O. Scott wrote, "Okja is a miracle of imagination and technique, and Okja insists, with abundant mischief and absolute sincerity, that she possesses a soul."
|Year||Award||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref.|
|2017||70th Cannes Film Festival||Palme d'Or||Bong Joon-ho||Nominated|
|2018||Saturn Awards||Best Television Presentation||Okja||Nominated|||
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