Three major movie chains in South Korea are in a standoff with Netflix and will not be screening Okja. The film by Bong Joon-ho is due on June 29, movie theater chains CGV, Lotte Cinema, and Megabox had resolved not to cave in to Netflix’s demand to release the movie simultaneously with the online launch. According to the Chosunilbo, the distributors secured over 90 independent screens instead.
CGV disagrees with Netflix in that it “disturbs the distribution system of the global film industry and destroys its ecosystem.” It is customary in Korea to have a three-week hold-back period after a film’s theatrical release before it can be launched online.
Meanwhile, the Korea Herald reports that according to the Korean Film Council’s statistics, Okja accounted for 12 percent of ticket reservations, ranking second in ticket sales to Transformers: The Last Knight, which goes on top spot with 41.6 percent sales.
Okja stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, and Ahn Seo-hyun. It is about a Mi-Ja, a young girl who lives in the mountain, who has a massive animal best friend named Okja.
Okja is described as looking like a cross between a hog and a hippo, which acts like a friendly dog and is smart enough to understand Mi-ja’s secrets, which she whispers into its ears. It turns out that Swinton’s character, Mirando CEO Lucy Mirando, has sent out genetically engineered “super pigs” to 20 different farmers around the world, and Okja is one of them. The experiment is all for a contest to see which culture could breed the biggest hog. Unfortunately, it is also a PR ploy for Miranda’s pork products. When one day Mi-ja’s best friend disappears, she breaks her piggy bank to embark on a journey to search for Okja.
When Okja premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, organizers, including jury president Pedro Almodovar, objected to the film’s inclusion. According to him, it was in violation of a French law that says films can only appear on home-viewing platforms (streaming included) 36 months after theatrical opening.
“I understand the content of the controversy, but myself, and filmmakers such as Noah Baumbach are merely creators, and we have never studied French law. So if there was anything that needed to be solved logistically, it should have been done before we were invited,” Okja director Bong said.
Baumbach’s Netflix feature The Meyerowitz Stories also faced the same Cannes censure.
Meanwhile, Bong credits Netflix for backing his film’s strangeness, which traditional studios wouldn’t and didn’t support. Add to that, the streaming giant not only allotted a $50 million budget, but it also gave him 100 percent freedom to execute his creative vision.
“They said you don’t need to change one word of the script, you can just do whatever you want. They supported my vision completely, so I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Netflix again at all.”
Okja is a blend of Korean and international actors and settings. Erik-Jan De Boer’s team, who was behind the Oscar winning tiger in Life of Pi, created Okja’s CGI. It premieres on Netflix on June 28 (U.S. local time) as well as in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles with the VOD release.
[Featured Image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images]