The Netflix Original film Okja, directed by Bong Joon-ho was released on 28 June 2017 and has since become one of their most popular and talked about films.
Okja follows the story of a little Korean girl, Mija (Seo-Hyeon Ahn), whose best friend is a ‘super-pig’ she lovingly calls Okja. The film begins ten years prior, where we see Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) take over as CEO of her family’s business – the Mirando Corporation. Lucy, who is desperate to prove she can run the corporation better than her predecessors, develops a ten-year plan to solve world hunger and provide an affordable meat as the world’s population grows. Mirando’s answer is developing super-pigs – a breed of huge pigs raised for meat. In Mirando’s ten-year plan, twenty-six countries and their best farmers get a super-pig to raise, and in ten years time each super-pig is to be examined, with the biggest pig travelling to America for the launch of the world’s newest, and tastiest meat.
However for young Mija, her grandfather’s super-pig has become her companion and much more than someone’s next dinner, so when the Mirando Corporation tries to take back Okja, a group of activists called the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), help Mija to rescue her best friend.
Okja has dove deeper than just producing a film that simply shows a vegan agenda; it has created and shown a relationship between a little girl and her best friend, that happens to be seen as meat instead of as a pet. The most hard-hitting scenes in Okja are delivered in some of the most unexpected ways, and any viewers who thought this was a children’s film would have been met with surprise. Some of the most painful scenes to watch in Okja are delivered by celebrity vet Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhall). When we see Wilcox at the beginning of the film he is bright and loveable, but ten years down the track, his love for animals has become a thing of the past, and he is reduced to drinking himself into oblivion as the Mirando’s pay him to run tests on the super-pigs.
The painful breeding process to achieve the biggest super-pig is inflicted on Okja, which at the very least is difficult to watch; it is uncomfortable and in some parts too upsetting, leaving me looking away. The scene is shocking, and may possibly be referring to the link between feminism and veganism, and the ideology that one cannot be a feminist without being a vegan also, as the dairy and livestock industry profits from artificially inseminating and force-breeding animals.
There are many references in the film for those in the know, but whatever the depth of the audience’s understanding of animal rights issues, Okja has had an impact. This film has made the public think, whilst being entertained, and no matter what your beliefs or diet are, being challenged to rethink our morals is a sign of success.
The Animal Liberation Front is actually a real organization that strives to free captured animals while economicaly harming ‘big companies’ that profit from the abuse.