Friends indeed come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and yes, even species. For most people, the idea of producing that friend into a mass distributed product elevates absurdity to new heights; at least for most.
The Netflix original film Okja (2017) is directed by critically acclaimed visionary director Bong Joon-ho (director of Snowpiercer and The Host) who gives a quirky and honest take on the food industry in his latest film.
The story follows a young girl Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) in her quest to save her bioengineered super pig, Okja, who was living with her and her grandfather over the past 10 years.
The film opens with an informational filler for the audience on the state of the world’s food crisis.
A shortage has sprouted across the globe and humans are in need of a new food supply. The Mirando Company, headed by Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), seeks to solve this problem.
Her solution is the mass production of bio manufactured super pigs.
These super pigs are set to redefine the livestock industry with the amount of meat they produce, their health upside and eco friendliness due to no usage GMO’s.
In order to achieve this goal, Mirando has assigned a baby super pig to a different farmer across the globe, each unique in their traditions for raising animals.
Once the pig has fully grown, Mirando will select a winner for the largest pig, and thus begin producing and distributing the animal into grocery stores.
The next scene takes place in the forested mountains of North Korea, where the audience finds Mija with Okja on a sunny afternoon picking supplies in the forest.
Mija and Okja have a strong bonding relationship that can be seen through their personal interactions. Mija tosses food into Okja’s mouth, naps on Okja’s giant belly, and is even saved from falling off a cliffside by Okja.
When the two arrive back from their day of adventuring, Mija’s grandfather tells her Mirando will be there tomorrow to examine Okja.
Mija is convinced Okja is hers, and is unaware she’ll be taken away the next day.
Mija curls up softly under Okja’s rhino like arms, and falls asleep.
Scientists and greasy Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrive to Mija’s grandfather’s farm with cameras ready to capture the giant super pig.
Mija’s grandfather insistently takes Mija away by the hand to visit her parent’s grave, where he tries handing her a gold pig since Okja is gone now.
Mija is stunned by this news. She returns back to her shack to find that Okja is in fact, gone.
Everything ensuing Okja being taken away follows Mija on her adventure to get Okja back.
She finds life is very different in the city, and she’s left at a disadvantage in finding Okja by not being able to speak English.
Besides Okja the film being a coming of age tale about a girl and her friend, the dark truth revealed in the film is what I found profoundly scary.
In modest terms, the maltreatment of animals, the abuse, neglect, everything they face just in order to be eaten by humans seems all too unfair.
There’s this sense of elitism over animals in the film, and it’s ironic how the characters mistreating animals need them in order to live.
The overall plot of the story was somewhat slow moving and anticlimactic, but in the same breath I applaud Okja in what it accomplished by displaying this horrible aspect of animal abuse in the food industry in a hyper satirical way.