‘Okja': Tilda Swinton and Giancarlo Esposito on Formative Pets, Netflix in Theaters
Bong Joonn Ho‘s Okja had a rapturous debut at Cannes amongst critics (read our review, here). But due to its stature as a Netflix original film it was unofficially barred by the Jury from receiving any awards. Because Netflix isn’t pursuing a theatrical release in France, the President of the esteemed film festival nearly pulled both Netflix films in competition (Okja and Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories). Though they screened (and received some of the best reviews from the festival), the Jury held steadfast on the prediction that they would not reward any of the streaming service’s films.
Due to the brazen go-for-broke adventure stylings of Bong’s film, it likely would have struggled to find a foothold for awards that generally go to very grounded and piercing works anyhow. But Okja is piercing, nonetheless. The adventure concerns an evil corporation (headed by Tilda Swinton with Giancarlo Esposito as her steady advisor/adversary) that faces the public by showing their good intentions of attempting to feed the world through a method of absurd pageantry that hides the truth to how that’s being done. Mirando Corp. has publicly given their genetically manufactured “super pigs” to farmers in various parts of the world to raise for ten years, promising to reward the family who raises the biggest and best pig. The winner of this competition is a young South Korean girl named Mija (An Seo-Hyun) and her pig, Okja. When the Corp. comes to her sleepy countryside to take her away for good, Mija travels to Seoul and New York City in an attempt to return her best friend to her home. Along the way, Bong skewers corporate greed, celebrity, the rigorous debates for pure intentions that come inherent to activism and even internment camps. It’s a fun adventure with heady topics.
Recently I got the chance to sit down and chat with the figureheads of Mirando—Swinton and Esposito—to discuss their character’s motives in the story, the pet they were most attached to growing up and that Netflix controversy. The full interview (above) features a heartfelt tribute from Esposito to his childhood dog, Mr. Puppy, who once saved him from a house fire and a fiery defense of Netflix by Swinton, who maintains we’ll all go to the theaters in the future and Netflix will operate like CDs used to—provide the reason to go out and see something you love in a live setting.
The official synopsis for the film is below. Per both Esposito and myself, if you have a big screen TV, you’ll be fine watching it at home. It definitely requires some size.
Okja lands on Netflix and in select theaters on Wednesday, June 28.
For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja – a massive animal and an even bigger friend – at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where image obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend.
With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja…while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home.
Deftly blending genres, humor, poignancy and drama, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) begins with the gentlest of premises-the bond between man and animal-and ultimately creates a distinct and layered vision of the world that addresses the animal inside us all.
Okja is a Plan B Entertainment, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company production in association with Netflix.