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PROFILE
Title : Okja
Romanization : 
Hangul : 옥자
Also known as : -
Genre : 
Director : Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Mother)
Screenplay : Bong Joon Ho and Jon Ronson (Frank) 
Producer : Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lewis Taewan Kim, Dooho Choi, Woo-sik Seo and Bong Joon Ho
Cinematographer : 
Production Company : Plan B, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company
Distribution Company : Netflix
Crank In : April 2016
Crank Up : 
Official Website : TBA
Release Date : 2017


SYPNOPSIS :
The story follows Mija, a young girl who must risk everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named 'Okja'.


NOTES : 

CAST : 
Ahn Seo Hyun as Mija
Tilda Swinton as 
Jake Gyllenhaal as
Paul Dano as
Devon Bostick as
Lily Collins as 
Byun Hee Bong as 
Shirley Henderson as
Daniel Henshall as
Yoon Je Moon as
Choi Woo Shik as
Steven Yeun as


Videos :

Poster :

Still : 


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Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" to be released only through netflix, not in theaters

 

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Director Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" is only going to be released through Netflix.

Wikitree quoted Netflix and reported that, ""Okja" will not be released in domestic and foreign theaters".

"It will only be released on Netflix all around the world at the same time".

Apparently, the American Netflix has invested over 50 million US dollars to director Bong Joon-ho's "Okja". Okja SPC and Plan B Entertainment, which were established for the sole purpose of "Okja" co-produced it.

"Okja" depicts an animal named Okja and a country girl who set out on an adventure in Korea and America.

Tilda Swinton who starred in Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer" is appearing in "Okja" and so are Jake Gyllenhaal, Kelly MacDonald and others.

 

 

source

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for starting the thread, @adikkeluangman

 

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This is such a great news for Choi Woo Shik and other Korean actors.

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‘OKJA,’ A NETFLIX ORIGINAL FILM STARRING TILDA SWINTON, JAKE GYLLENHAAL AND PAUL DANO FROM VISIONARY DIRECTOR BONG JOON HO, STARTS PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY TODAY

Global Adventure Film is Bong’s Highly Anticipated Follow-up to Snowpiercer

Seoul, South Korea (April 23, 2016) – Netflix announced that principal photography began yesterday on its feature film Okja in Seoul, South Korea. From director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Mother), Okja is produced by Plan B, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company, and stars Tilda Swinton (Hail, Caesar!, Moonrise Kingdom), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Everest) and Paul Dano (Love & Mercy, 12 Years a Slave) in a bold, global adventure.

"With Okja I want to show the beauty that can exist between man and animal, and also the horror between them," said Director Bong.

Okja was written by Bong and Jon Ronson (Frank) and follows Mija, a young girl who must risk everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named 'Okja'. Mija will be played by Seohyun An.

Joining the cast are acclaimed actors from around the world, including Devon Bostick (The 100), Lily Collins (To The Bone), Byun Heebong (The Host), Shirley Henderson (Anna Karenina), Daniel Henshall (The Babadook), Yoon Je Moon (Mother), Choi Wooshik (Set Me Free) and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead). Okja will be shot in South Korea, Canada and the US, in English and Korean. 
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lewis Taewan Kim, Dooho Choi, Woo-sik Seo and Bong Joon Ho are producers on the film. Okja is a Plan B, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company production.

Okja will premiere globally on Netflix in 2017 and will also have a limited day and date theatrical release in the US. Netflix is also looking for theatrical partners for a day and date release in select international territories, including Korea.

https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/okja-a-netflix-original-film-starring-tilda-swinton-jake-gyllenhaal-and-paul-dano-from-visionary-director-bong-joon-ho-starts-principal-photography-today 

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‘Okja’ begins shooting in Seoul, Steven Yeun joins cast

Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s upcoming monster-fantasy flick began shooting in Seoul last Friday, according to Netflix Korea, while another actor member -- Korean-American Steven Yeun -- has joined the film’s eclectic cast, reports say.

The film, set to be released by Netflix in 2017, is the most recent project of director Bong, whose previous feature “Snowpiercer” achieved worldwide critical acclaim.

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“I wanted to tell a story about the beautiful friendship between humans and animals and the fear that exists there,” Bong said on “Okja.” 

The film follows the story of a young girl, Mija, played by the 12-year-old Korean actress Ahn Seo-hyun, who fights to save her friend Okja, a genetically manufactured pig from being kidnapped by multinational companies.

Tilda Swinton will play the head of the corporation and her twin sister, while Paul Dano will star as an animal activist seeking to expose the corporation’s secret project to produce genetically modified animals. 

“Okja” will shoot in South Korea, Canada and the U.S. in both English and Korean. It is being produced by Plan B, a production company founded in 2001 by actor Brad Pitt. 

Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, who rose to fame in the U.S. through the zombie series “The Walking Dead,” is reportedly the latest actor to join in the film’s cast, which includes Hollywood’s Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Kelly Macdonald, Bill Nighy, Devon Bostick, Shirley Henderson and Daniel Henshall and Korean actors Byun Hee-bong, Yoon Je-moon and Choi Woo-shik.

Bong’s previous works include “Memories of Murder” (2003) and “Mother” (2009). 

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160424000268 

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There is a thread for this movie!  Totally not in the thread directory, btw.  Any passing mod want to fix that? :)

Saw this article today.

Tilda Swinton Introduces the Super Pig Project in This Eerie Teaser for Okja

By David Canfield

In Okja, Netflix’s upcoming monster movie centered on a young Korean girl, her massive genetically-modified pet pig, and the powerful corporation seeking to break them up, actress Tilda Swinton is returning to the world of director Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer)—this time playing two characters. One of her roles in the film is Lucy Mirando, the CEO of said villainous corporation and the antagonist of the film. In a new clip released by Netflix, Swinton provides a most eerie, uncomfortable, and cryptic introduction to the world of Okja in character, as Lucy teases her “Super Pig Project.”

Read the rest at Slate

And the new trailer (possibly region restricted?):

credit: Netflix US & Canada

And the website (lol): https://superpigproject.com/

Definitely be sure to check out the video there too. 

And "Lucy Mirando" has a twitter account here: https://twitter.com/lucymirando

The "press release":

Good job with the publicity, Netflix.  Two months til the revolution!  :D   Can't wait.

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And this is a really interesting article about Netflix, Cannes, and a law in France known as the Media Chronology Law. 

Netflix Seeks French Compromise For Its Cannes Films As Local Industry Takes Sides

by Mike Fleming Jr and Nancy Tartaglione

April 26, 2017 12:12pm

Netflix is trying to find a compromise after news that its first features accepted into the competition slate at the Cannes Film Festival — Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories – quickly drew the ire of France’s theatrical exhibitors guild. In a letter, the FNCF accused Netflix of skirting French regulations and fiscal obligations and called on the streaming service to release both movies in French theaters following their Cannes premieres. That bucks up against the foundation of Netflix’s business model, which is first and foremost to provide product for its global streaming audience.

For the French, the situation has also stirred a philosophical debate about the meaning of cinema in a country where the art form was born. One observer says Cannes (not Netflix) has become “a battleground to establish a new definition of cinema,” while folks like Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval think the industry upset is “ridiculous” and “colonial.”

At issue is France’s Media Chronology Law, which keeps films released in French theaters from playing on SVOD platforms for three years. On its highest-profile titles, Netflix has accompanied releases with limited theatrical runs in the U.S., and that is essentially the compromise it seeks in the French marketplace.

Read the rest at Deadline

 

And by the way, Okja is an official selection for this year's Cannes Film Festival!  See the whole list in competition here.

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Some resolution on the Netflix-France-theater issue and more on release dates:

Netflix Sets 'Okja' Theatrical Release Date

10:53 PM PDT 5/14/2017 by Lee Hyo-won

Bong Joon-Ho's Okja will be available to Netflix users in 190 countries as well as South Korean moviegoers June 28 (June 29 Korea time), when it will be simultaneously revealed through the online streaming giant as well as Korean cinemas, the makers of the film told reporters in Seoul on Monday.

This will be shortly after the film premieres in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this month.

"Okja will open in South Korean theaters on June 29 (June 28 in the U.S.)," said Woo Taek Kim, CEO of NEW, one of Korea's four major investor-distributors that will handle the theatrical release of the much-anticipated sci-fi drama. In terms of screening dates, he emphasized it would be "unlimited." The number of screens are still under discussion.

As for North American and European screenings, Ted Sarandos, COO of Netflix, said Okja will be available in select U.S. and U.K. theaters. "We will have the film in theaters in select locations, as well as a qualifying run in London."

"Netflix is extremely proud of making this film for not only Korea but also for the world," he said.

The exec added that Netflix wishes to coexist with cinemas, not compete against them. "We're not against movie theaters or mean to harm them in any way. I would actually like all our films in theaters," Sarandos said, adding, "The idea of holding movies doesn't seem like a good trade for most movie lovers. I want to give them an abundance of films [to watch]."

About the film's debut at Cannes, he said, "This is the first time a Netflix film is competing at Cannes. It is a great honor and a great thrill to do this with Director Bong. And then six weeks later it will be available to everybody in the world."

Read the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

 

Interesting.  I had no idea that Okja was the most expensive Korean language film ever!  1 month, 11 days til release!

 

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Poster (Korean version):

kZBv05h.jpg

English version:

Spoiler

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And some videos of the press conference on May 15th:

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

 

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Official trailer from Netflix:

 

New article:

Bong Joon-ho on Working With Netflix and the Controversy Over ‘Okja’ at Cannes

Sonia Kil

May 16, 2017 | 02:00PM PT

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, whose competition title “Okja” has stirred up controversy between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival, says the streaming giant imposed only one restriction on him as a filmmaker.

“At first, Darius Khondji, my cinematographer, and I wanted to shoot ‘Okja’ on 35mm, but Netflix insisted that all Netflix originals be shot and archived in 4K,” Bong said in an interview with Variety. “Khondji then figured that we would use Alexa 65, which equates to a 70mm film in digital format. It makes a great cinematic vibe.”

Except for that sole condition, Bong said he had carte blanche.

“Netflix guaranteed my complete freedom in terms of putting together my team and the final cut privilege, which only godlike filmmakers such as Spielberg get,” he said.

“Okja” tells the story of a girl who travels from Korea to Manhattan to prevent a multinational company from kidnapping her best friend, a massive animal named Okja. The cast includes Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Read the rest at Variety

 

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From Dramabeans:

Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix film Okja premieres at Cannes

by tipsymocha  May 21, 2017

I always find it simultaneously weird and exciting when Korean acting and directing talent work with American ones, because it really does feel like my two worlds are colliding, when they used to be wholly separate. Director Bong Joon-ho has helmed the most well-known of such joint Korean-American productions, with 2013’s Snowpiercer and now Netflix’s Okja, which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

When I first read the plot description of the new action-adventure film featuring a large pig as a main character, I was reminded of other stories featuring children seeking to rescue and protect their non-human companions, like E.T. or Pete’s Dragon. But, as can be expected of Bong Joon-ho, elements that might seem similar have been injected with a dose of the bizarre.

Read the rest HERE

 

More on the technical difficulties at the screening and response to the film:

Cannes: Netflix film Okja stopped after technical glitch

19 May 2017

A screening at the Cannes Film Festival had to be stopped after technical problems during the first few minutes of the film.

Okja, starring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, had been booed by some in the audience after the Netflix logo appeared at the beginning.

But it then became clear the film was playing in the wrong aspect ratio.

The film has been controversial because producer Netflix has refused to screen it in French cinemas.

After the jeers, the movie was stopped and restarted without explanation.

Some film journalists in the screening uploaded videos of the heckling on social media.

The BBC's Lauren Turner, who was at the screening, said: "There was shouting from the upper seats and it became apparent the aspect ratio was wrong, so they restarted it after about 10 minutes.

"The second time around the audience booed the Netflix logo again. But there was also some cheering at the same time and a warm round of applause at the end."

A statement from the Cannes Film Festival said: "This incident was entirely the responsibility of the Festival's technical service, which offers its apologies to the director and his team, to the producers and the audience."

Read the rest at BBC News

 

And lots of reviews!  Yay, most of them look really positive.  I'll just post some highlights and excerpts.

The Guardian gives it 5 stars:

Spoiler

Okja review – giant Korean pig plus Tilda Swinton equals glorious family adventure

Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho has delivered a wonderful film comparable to ET or Roald Dalhl in this story of a 13-year-old girl and her outsize pet

Peter Bradshaw

Friday 19 May 2017 06.40 EDT

How can this movie’s producer - Netflix - ever be content with just letting it go on the small screen? Apart from everything else, the digital effects are spectacular and the visual images beautiful. It’s a terrible waste to shrink them to an iPad.

Okja is a Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s new “creature feature”, rather like his 2006 film The Host. But it’s also a lovely family action-adventure about a girl and the giant hippoesque pig, named Okja, that she has come to love like family. This exciting, charming, sweet-natured movie gives its audience heartmeltingly tender moments showing us their magical life together in the Korean mountains. Then it whooshes us to New York City and a world of cynicism, menace and danger. This movie just rattles along with glorious storytelling gusto in the spirit of Roald Dahl, ET creator Melissa Mathison and Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmatians.

And Bong Joon-ho has rather shrewdly hired British author and journalist Jon Ronson as his co-writer on this film and it could have been Ronson who brought in the flavour of the Anglo-Saxon classics – and almost certainly was responsible for big laugh lines in the New York headquarters of a heartless food tech company, whose hatchet-faced spin-crazed CEO marvels over the good press she’s getting in Slate, of all the hip places: “These are journalists who never write about pigs!”

An Seo-hyun gives an outstanding performance as 13-year-old Mija, who has grown up with no parents, looked after by kindly grandpa Heebong, played by Byun Heebong (who was in The Host and also Bong’s 2003 film Memories of Murder). Her only friend and companion is Okja, the giant pig leased to them by flinty-hearted food tech CEO Lucy Mirando, played by Tilda Swinton. Okja’s ultimate destiny is to be taken away from them, poked and prodded by Mirando’s scientists, displayed to the media as an example of next-level meat production, paraded with the firm’s grotesque celebrity TV vet Dr Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) and then finally eaten.

But poor Mija has grown up not quite grasping that, and soon Heebong will have to break it to her that Okja must go, and it’s going to be like leading Baloo away from Mowgli and sending him to the abattoir. But a crew of animal rights activists, led by the inscrutable Jay (Paul Dano), have other ideas.

Read the rest HERE

Variety:

Spoiler

Cannes Film Review: ‘Okja’

Peter Debruge

...

Shot in bright, cinematic widescreen by DP Darius Khondji, this Netflix-produced feature belongs on the big screen, where no one would mistake Okja for a real animal, and yet the CG is convincing enough to suspend disbelief. Bong has chosen to make Okja a larger-than-life animal, but she could just as easily be a talking pig (there’s plenty of “Babe” DNA here already) — the key is that his audience be able to recognize her soul. And yet, Mirando employees repeatedly insist that super-pig meat is quite the delicacy, which puts audiences in the strange position of wondering how the movie’s main character might taste.

Read the rest HERE

The Hollywood Reporter:

Spoiler

'Okja': Film Review | Cannes 2017

5:09 AM PDT 5/19/2017 by Stephen Dalton

With a burning sense of injustice only the young can feel, Mija refuses to take the loss of Okja lying down. Embarking on an audacious mission to rescue the beloved beast and bring her home, Mija joins forces with a gang of dapper but ethically conflicted animal welfare activists led by Jay (Paul Dano) and K (Steve Yeun). A superbly staged truck chase through Seoul, climaxing with Okja smashing up a subterranean shopping mall to the ironic strains of John Denver's sappy pop classic "Annie's Song," provides one of the film's set-piece action highlights.

The fleshy physicality of Okja herself is mostly well-realized, and pleasingly more rooted in grunting, farting, snot-dribbling reality than sanitized Disney fantasy. Combining puppetry, hydraulics and CG visuals, Bong fleshed out his voluptuous leading lady with help from conceptual artist Hee Chul Jang, who also designed the monster in The Host, plus visual effects supervisor De Boer, who won an Academy Award for creating the tiger in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Tender scenes in which Okja and Mija sleep alongside each other, and fight to save each other from a dramatic cliff fall, are superlative marriages of digital and live-action.

Read the rest HERE

Vanity Fair:

Spoiler

The Resistance Gets Support, in Giant-Pig Form, in the Thrilling Okja

Bong Joon-ho’s latest wonderment is the perfect comedy-adventure for our era.

by Richard Lawson

May 19, 2017 7:53 am

Though festival tiredness (and madness) may be partly to blame, I’m going to give most of the credit for my weepy Friday morning to Okja, the new film from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho which premieres Friday at the Cannes Film Festival. A rollicking rescue movie with deep ache and hope in its heart, Okja feels like just the right story for this grim political moment. It’s something of a clarion call to those resisting the creep of various -isms—capitalism, totalitarianism, fatalism—without succumbing to sanctimony or sermonizing. It’s also funny and thrilling, chock-full of masterfully constructed set pieces that spin and chase with dizzy brio.

...

In that sense, I think Bong is making a point larger than the animal-rights issue. He’s presenting, in humorous and fanciful fashion, a case for principle, for maintaining a core compassion while still doggedly fighting for good. It’s an encouragement to a beleaguered proletariat, weary and depressed and angry under the thumb of heedless oligarchy.

Or something like that. What I’m trying to say is the movie feels utterly righteous right now. It’s a bold and feisty middle-finger, a “we can do it” rallying cry. Which is awfully nice to hear in these crushing times. It’s what provoked tears during my fraught early-morning screening (which started with a botched projection, much to the loud boos and hisses of Cannes-goers), particularly the film’s lovely and contemplative closing scenes.

...

There has been much controversy about Netflix’s presence at this festival—Okja will premiere on the streaming service on June 28 in the U.S.—and I’ll add to the chorus in saying that Okja’s filming is crisp and eye-popping, and features seamless creature effects. It should be seen on the big screen if possible. A TV or computer just won’t do. Still, one must give some nod of respect to Netflix for handing Bong the reins and letting him go wild. Okja is a buoyant, messy delight of a film, clever and rousing and full-hearted. I laughed; I cried; I chose to forego meat at lunch.

Read the rest HERE

Vulture:

Spoiler

Cannes Review: Okja Is a Madcap Creature Feature That Might Make You a Vegetarian

By Emily Yoshida

Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer christened a subgenre of film I like to think of as the alternate-reality blockbuster: a kind of big, over-the-top adventure that seemed transmitted from a Hollywood system that hadn’t been completely colonized by franchises. It retained the personal quirks of ’80s and ’90s multiplex fare, while being an international production from top to bottom, with the likes of Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer starring alongside Song Kang-ho. It felt like a throwback, but also like a particularly optimistic vision of a cinema of the future.

The director’s latest, Okja, is a continuation of this in every way, a madcap fable as purposeful as it is unpredictable, that bears no whiff of a committee, for (mostly) better or (occasionally) worse. This time, Netflix has been added to the blender, much to the consternation of the Cannes crowd. (They booed the company’s logo, just as they had the Amazon logo ahead of Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck.) But it’s hard to imagine how else a film this freewheeling and in open defiance of logic and convention would get made. The story, like its titular gigantic pig-hippo, is a hybrid, nodding to kid-creature teams from E.T. to My Neighbor Totoro, while also dabbling in both farcical and sincere ecodrama. It might be considered an out-and-out family film, were it not for co-writer Jon Ronson’s way around an F-bomb.

Read the rest HERE

Edit: adding a few more things...

Another review (excerpt):

Spoiler

Cannes 2017 Review: OKJA Will Make You Jump for Joy and Burst into Tears

Director Bong Joon Ho is a master of twisting something new out of the familiar. Tilda Swinton, leads a strong cast, including Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Lily Collins.

Pierce Conran

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea

Ditching the allegory of Snowpiercer, Bong goes for the jugular with a tale that feels all too realistic as a corporation hides its genetically-modified horrors behind PR razzle-dazzle. The fake Mirando sounds awfully similar to Monsanto, and while the Lucy character and her entourage are cartoonish creations, the stark juxtaposition with the realities of their business creates a very unsettling feeling.

Perhaps the film's crowning achievement is a rip-roaring chase which flings Okja and Mija through the streets, alleys and underground shopping malls of Seoul while adding several new protagonists to the mix. It's a technical marvel and bedazzling escalation of chaos built on clever twists and details which is as funny as it is thrilling.

Just as he did 11 years with Ko Ah-sung in The Host, Bong has discovered a incredible new talent in An Seo Hyun, on whose confident shoulders much of the film's expansive emotional heft is placed. The touching bond she forms with the exquisitely designed CGI Okja launches the film on its poignant trajectory. Given the physicality, levity and tenderness of her performance, An surely has a bright future ahead of her.

Read the rest HERE

There's a long interview with producer/actress Tilda Swinton at The Wrap. A short excerpt:

Spoiler

How do you find freedom as a performer within a vision as meticulous as Bong Joon Ho’s?
One of the most joyous things about working with Director Bong is that he has the film, once we start shooting, pretty well mapped out in his head, in terms of its cut, its rhythm, its texture. But he is absolutely up for and enthusiastic about dreaming up the detail with us all. This precision means, strangely enough, a great feeling of relief for his comrades. Between this and that exact delineation of space and time, he invites playfulness and an energy that can veer from natural to liberated to pretty wild. His amusement is the key factor, the eye of the needle. And his hand is always there to steer the ship.

There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t work with children or animals, both of which figure prominently in this film.
As usual, those old sayings should be taken with massive doses of salt. I suspect this old chestnut evolved because working with unselfconscious, fully sentient beings tends to show up any pomp or posturing anybody else is likely to bring with them. For the cast and crew of Okja, [child actress] An Seo Hyun and Okja were the co-stars of all our dreams, in every sense.

And Deadline has an interview with Ahn Seo Hyun!  This part is cute:

Spoiler

You’re acting in this movie opposite a creature that isn’t physically there on set. But she has such a character in the movie and your scenes together are real interactions. How complicated was that?

It wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be in the beginning because there was a stuffed animal standing in for Okja. There was a real person inside it, and I think maybe I was able to project my feelings for Okja onto the stuffy and the person operating it. It became a real relationship with that person, like with any other actor. It became a real experience.

What did you make of Okja when you finally saw her in the finished film?

Well, I was so familiar with and fond of the stuffy and the person inside that it was a little unfamiliar when I saw it for the first time. It was a bit like meeting her for the first time.

 

Edited by ecs707a

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May 26, 2017

At Cannes, praise for the old Korean boys :

Bong’s ‘Okja’ stirs the pot, while Hong screens his 21st feature

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

25195409.jpg
Five films by Korean directors were invited to the 70th Cannes Film Festival. From left to right: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja,” Hong Sang-soo’s “The Day After,” Hong’s “Claire’s Camera,” Jeong Byeong-gil’s “The Villainess” and Byun Sung-hyun’s “The Merciless.” [NETFLIX, SCREEN CAPTURES, NEW, CJ E&M]

The Cannes Film Festival has faced criticism in the past for screening work from the same “usual suspect” directors, and if the same can be said about Korean filmmakers’ participation in the prestigious competition, the title of festival darling might go to Bong Joon-ho and Hong Sang-soo.

The two auteurs are no stranger to Cannes, where the international cineaste community has consistently embraced them for their unconventional narratives and aesthetic, and this year was no exception.

Bong’s action-adventure film “Okja” about a young girl (An Seo-hyun) who risks her life to save her best friend, a genetically modified pig, from being kidnapped by a multinational conglomerate was critically appraised, despite backlash from the old guard of the film world - cinema chains - who complained about “Okja” skipping a traditional theatrical release and going straight to Netflix instead.

“How can this movie’s producer - Netflix - ever be content with just letting it go on the small screen?,” wrote The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who gave the film five out of five stars. “Apart from everything else, the digital effects are spectacular and the visual images beautiful.”

There are whispers that the fracas over distribution method may hurt Bong’s chance of winning the top Palme d’Or prize. Pedro Almodovar, the competition jury’s president, lashed out at Netflix, saying the screen for films “should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting.”

Hong, on the other hand, has faced less controversy at Cannes, though the Korean paparazzi haven’t exactly been kind about his extramarital affair with longtime muse Kim Min-hee.

Spoiler

25195434.jpg

Director Hong Sang-soo, third from right, and actors on the red carpet for the screening of the film “The Day After” in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. [XINHUA/YONHAP]

Hong’s latest film, “The Day After,” about a famous writer who enters an affair with his assistant (sound familiar?), was well received, especially by the French press. Hubert Niogret, editor of the French film magazine Positive, called it “fantastic” and “the best of the titles that have so far been unveiled in this year’s Cannes competition” after its world premiere in France on Monday.

Todas Las Criticas, a Spanish film website that aggregates ratings from over 40 critics, gave “The Day After” 7.59 out of 10, the highest score among the 15 competing movies that have been evaluated as of Thursday. “Okja” earned 6.2, and a total of 19 movies are competing for the Palme d’Or. 

Both “Okja” and “The Day After” received a four-minute standing ovation, which is said to be a good criterion for measuring the possibility of a film winning the top honor. Four minutes, though, still falls far short of the 10-minute applause given to Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004. 

“The Day After” is a black-and-white affair about Bong-wan (Kwon Hae-hyo), a famous author and publisher who cheats on his wife (Cho Yoon-hee) with his assistant (Kim Sae-byeok). Bong-wan’s wife eventually figures it out, but it is only after he breaks up with his mistress that the wife comes around the office to mistakenly slap the wrong woman: Ah-reum (Kim Min-hee), a newly-hired assistant.

The film is considered one of Hong’s most audience-friendly movies with the inclusion of delightful humor. It is his 21st feature and the fourth to enter the main Cannes competition after “In Another Country” (2012), “Tale of Cinema” (2005) and “Woman is the Future of Man” (2004). 

The prolific writer-director has another film screening out of competition, “Claire’s Camera,” co-starring Kim Min-hee and French arthouse queen Isabelle Huppert. Huppert plays a mysterious music teacher/poet with an uncanny knack for photography who helps another woman (Kim) who has just been fired by her female boss for allegedly not being honest. 

The reaction to this 68-minute piece was lukewarm. Screen International, one of the few media outlets that reviewed “Claire’s Camera,” described it as “dashed and somewhat shallow.”

“Hong Sangsoo is certainly one of Korea’s most prolific directors,” the review said. “Quantity, however, is not necessarily a mark of quality, even for a filmmaker like Hong.”

“The Villainess” and “The Merciless,” the two Korean films invited to the Midnight Screening section, generally received positive reviews.

Helmed by Jeong Byeong-gil and starring Kim Ok-bin and Shin Ha-kyun, “The Villainess” is an action-packed film revolving around a deadly female assassin (Kim) who gets a second lease on life after the South Korean intelligence agency recruits her to be a sleeper cell. Critics lauded Kim’s performance despite the weak plot.

Crime thriller “The Merciless,” starring Seol Kyung-gu and Yim Si-wan, similarly received rave reviews after its screening on Wednesday night. The film about the relationship between an undercover cop and drug smuggler received a seven-minute standing ovation. 

The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will wrap up on Sunday.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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June 5, 2017

Future of ‘Okja’ uncertain in Korea

Clash between online streaming giant Netflix and cinemas spreads

The future of Bong Joon-ho’s much-anticipated Netflix-backed fantasy flick “Okja” has become murky in Korea, as the local cinema industry begins to mirror the conflict between online streaming and theatrical screenings that took center stage in Cannes last month. 

Last Friday, Korea’s largest cinema chain CGV announced it would not show “Okja” in its theaters unless Netflix agreed to postpone online streaming until after the film’s theatrical debut. Other major cinema chains, Lotte Cinema and Megabox, have since been deliberating over whether to show the film, they said. Final decisions are to be announced some 10 days before the film’s release, the two companies said. 

“The simultaneous online and theater release goes against the order of the global film industry’s distribution structure,” CGV said in a statement. “It not only destroys the ecosystem of the film industry, it is not in accord with fairness in regard to other film businesses and could cause severe confusion,” said CGV, criticizing Netflix’s staunch stance.

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Still from “Okja” (NEW)

There is no regulation in Korea concerning the timing of release of films in theaters and other platforms.

The cinema giant, which operates some 39 percent of the country’s film screens, added it would not collaborate with Netflix on any type of marketing, including advertisements, for “Okja.” 

The clash between the world’s largest online content streaming service -- Netflix boasts some 98 million subscribers worldwide -- and the film industry began ahead of this year‘s Cannes Film Festival, which ran from May 17-29. Netflix announced it would not seek wide theatrical releases for its submissions -- “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories” -- in France after the film fest. The country’s cinema purists rose in uproar against the online giant for undermining the big-screen cinema experience, and Cannes hastily implemented a new rule stating only movies planned for theatrical release in France would be able to compete at the film fest in Cannes starting from next year. 

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos addressed the conflict at Cannes, saying, “The culture is changing and we listen to our 100 million customers. ... I think we all have to come to grips with where technology takes us.” 

“Okja” has drawn attention in Korea since its inception, with $50 million in backing from Netflix, actor Brad Pitt as one of its producers and Hollywood stars Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal among its cast. 

For now, “Okja” is slated to open simultaneously in Korean and North American theaters, and on Netflix’s streaming service in some 190 countries on June 29. The film will be shown in 10 theaters in the UK on June 23.

Next Entertainment World, the film’s theatrical distributor here, is in the process of revising the marketing and screening schedule for the film since CGV’s boycott announcement. 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)

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June 9, 2017

‘Okja’ faces backlash from local theaters :

Netflix-backed Bong Joon-ho flick seen as threat to distribution

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

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[NETFLIX, NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD]

Controversy continues to follow Netflix’s “Okja,” even after all the commotion prior to its debut at the 70th Cannes Film Festival last month.

“Okja” faced backlash in France when it was invited to compete at the prestigious film event, as French cinema chains complained about the movie skipping a traditional theatrical release and heading straight to Netflix instead. 

Though Netflix tried to be more open in Korea by simultaneously releasing “Okja” on both the streaming site and at local theaters, its decision has also seen pushback from the old guard of the film world.

Korea’s three major cinema chains - CGV, Lotte Cinema, and Megabox - have lukewarm attitudes towards “Okja,” despite it being directed by Bong Joon-ho, one of the nation’s most beloved auteurs, known for his award-winning films “Snowpiercer” (2013), “Mother” (2009) and “The Host” (2006).

Before heading to Cannes last month, Netflix announced that the film will become available to its users in 190 countries on June 29, Korean time. And Kim Woo-taek, CEO of Next Entertainment World (NEW), which will distribute “Okja” in Korea, told reporters that the film will simultaneously be unveiled in Korean theaters. 

But three weeks ahead of its scheduled theatrical release date, Korea’s three major cinema chains, which make up more than 90 percent of the entire market, remain undecided on whether to screen the film. They are reluctant to premiere “Okja” on the same date as Netflix due to the fear of creating a precedent that disturbs the film industry’s traditional distribution order, a potential threat to the industry. 

The traditional distribution of films usually begins in theaters and then moves to online platforms and on-demand services. The period between theatrical premiere and online release in Korea is three weeks - already a lot shorter than three years in France and 90 days in United States.

“We delivered our position to NEW last month that it would be difficult to screen ‘Okja’ at CGV if Netflix maintains its stance on the film’s simultaneous drop via online and theaters,” said Hwang Jae-hyeon from CGV Wednesday, the biggest theater chain in Korea.

“Though Netflix is acting as if the simultaneous theatrical release in Korea is some kind of a perk, we believe it is disturbing the film industry’s existing distribution order. We are concerned that Netflix is merely using ‘Okja’ as a means to lure more users [in Korea.]”

Hwang added, “We also deeply wish to screen the film at our theaters, and we are going to do our best to reach a consensus with [Netflix through NEW]. We hope [Netflix] respects the existing film industry’s values and distribution order that have led to the industry’s marked development over the last decades.”

The opening of a movie is usually decided two weeks ahead of its scheduled release date, and whatever decision CGV makes will be made by June 15, according to Hwang.

The market’s second and third players are expressing similar points of views regarding the screening of “Okja,” though their decision is likely to be influenced by CGV.

In response to the major cinema chains’ lukewarm attitudes, Lim Seong-rok from NEW said Wednesday, “We are well aware of and fully understand the cinemas’ stance, but it is too early to conclude that the film will not open in major theaters. We are currently doing our best to secure as many theaters as possible.”

Despite the heated debate, some film critics seem to be welcoming the outcome derived from the controversy sparked between Netflix and major cinemas.

“I personally view this positively. Though films have traditionally always opened in theaters, I believe having more diverse platforms to enjoy movies is a positive change,” said film critic Kim Young-jin. 

When asked about the possible reason behind Netflix’s decision to release the movie in theaters and on the streaming site in Korea at the same time, Kim referred to the high barrier to entry Netflix has seen in the country. “Netflix is not as well-received in Korea as it is in other countries. And Netflix seems to be using the movie as a marketing strategy to lure more users in Korea, placing director Bong Joon-ho, who has high name value here, at the forefront.”

Another movie critic, Hwang Jin-mi, expressed a similar point of view about how the recent controversy could shed light on the monopoly that major cinema chains have in Korea. 

“I believe the recent controversy could function as an opportunity to shed light on CGV’s market monopoly problem. It has been about 15 years since CGV has been dominating the market. For a very long time, if the cinema chain decided not to screen a movie, the film usually had very little chance of acquiring screens. But people haven’t actually paid much attention to this issue until ‘Okja’ became the center of it.”

Regardless of the effects of the recent controversy, the biggest benefactor of this fuss is definitely Netflix, according to film critic Oh Dong-jin.

“There is no clear answer on whether major cinemas should screen ‘Okja.’ But the clear winner of this controversy is definitely Netflix. Everyone has now gotten to know about the brand, and they are participating in the debate on what should be done.”

Regarding the possible change to film distribution in Korea, Oh said that it is very natural.

“Though [cinemas and Netflix] are currently struggling over the leadership of the film market, we can’t deny that the times are changing. ”

Meanwhile, the film’s stars - Tilda Swinton, Daniel Henshall and Giancarlo Esposito - will visit Korea to promote “Okja” next week. They, along with director Bong and their Korean co-stars like An Seo-hyun, will hold a red carpet event and a press conference on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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June 13, 2017

[Herald Review] ‘Okja,’ a tale with a lot of heart and hurt

Wry satire meets near-magical adventure in Bong’s latest creature feature

Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” is a delightful coming-of-age story that centers on the warmth between living beings. But the way its little heroine Mija, a free spirit with a big heart, comes to terms with the world is perhaps more brutal and realistic than any crime-ridden thriller.

The film begins as the head of a multinational food and research conglomerate, Lucy Mirando, played by Tilda Swinton, announces the discovery of stunning super pigs in the wilderness of Chile.

Some 20 of these amazing creatures, which possess remarkable physical capabilities and intelligence, leave a minimal carbon footprint on the planet and whose meat tastes “f---ing good,” according to Lucy, are distributed to farmers around the world. 

After being bred separately for 10 years, the most superior pigs are to be showcased at the Best Super-pig Contest in New York City, she announces. One of the 20 pigs, Okja, ends up in a remote mountainside in Korea where Mija, portrayed with earthy wholesomeness by Ahn Seo-hyun, 12, lives with her grandfather, a farmer.

The beginning part of the film establishes the bond between the girl and the pig, which holds strong as the story’s core. Forming the backdrop of Okja and Mija’s blissful existence, rarely have the Korean mountains seemed so picturesque, nor the hand-to-mouth farmer life so quaint. 

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Ahn Seo-hyun stars in “Okja.” (NEW)

The hippo-like pig Okja is brought to life with computer graphics -- it is very big but very gentle (and frequently gassy), plodding along the mountains eating persimmons and napping on its back while Mija snoozes on its belly. 

Okja’s stay with Mija’s family comes to an end after 10 years as Dr. Johnny Wilcox, the face of Mirando Corp., comes to retrieve the creature. Okja, the most remarkable among the super pigs, will be taken to Seoul and shipped to New York to be paraded as the biggest success of the company’s campaign. Jake Gyllenhaal embodies the self-absorbed, deranged has-been zoologist Johnny, who claims to have genuinely loved animals at one point but is now a desperate TV personality. 

It is revealed that Mija’s grandfather, played by Byun Hee-bong, had attempted to buy Okja through installment payments to Mirando. The response he received was that the pig was unavailable for purchase; with the refunded money, he instead buys a solid gold pig figurine which he gives to Mija. 

Gold cannot satisfy the girl, however, who is devastated when she discovers that Okja has been taken away. With a fanny pack on her hips, some coins she has saved up and her golden pig, she embarks on a quest to Seoul in search of her friend and pet.

This is where the adventure portion of the film begins and where it also begins to straddle the realm of satire in a careful balance of humor and critique. The fearless Mija arrives in Seoul and literally stampedes through the glass doors of Mirando Corp. She manages to track down the truck hauling Okja and a gripping car chase in a tunnel ensues. On the way, Mija discovers that another group is after Okja: the Animal Liberation Front, a masked gang of radical activists, led by Jay (Paul Dano) and including K (Steven Yeun) and Red (Lily Collins), who seek to free animals from captivity and slaughterhouses. The group seeks to expose Mirando’s heinous crimes and asks Mija to help them.

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Tilda Swinton stars in “Okja.” (NEW)

The film boasts a crowded cast, but manages to keep its focus on Mija and Okja. The characters all add flavor to the story -- from Kim (Choi Woo-sik), who stars as a foul-mouthed, part-time truck driver, to Frank Dawson (Giancarlo Esposito), an expressionless top associate of Mirando.

What follows is the exposure of Mirando’s deeply disturbing practices. The insight underlying the film’s exhilarating run toward the end is that those who inflict harm on others, those who manifest evil, and those who have managed to claw their way to the top are damaged. Having been more hurt than others, they pass on that pain to others and create the order of the world. In the end, Mija and Okja also become victims. The question is whether these two can heal, instead of inflicting more pain on the world.

Much controversy continues to surround Bong’s latest creature feature. Its backer Netflix’s decision to release the film simultaneously in cinemas and online on its streaming platform has caused an uproar among cinema purists, who argue that films belong first on the big screen. Korea’s largest cinema chain CGV announced its boycott last week. Lotte Cinema and Megabox are still deliberating whether they will go ahead with the Korea release, slated for July 29.

“Okja” is definitely a film worth seeing on the big screen, with dynamic chase sequences and deliberate cinematography by Darius Khondji. The music score, created by Jemma Burns and Jung Jae-il, also deserves a listen on big stereos. One thing is certain: Bong has spun a tale with a lot of heart and hurt.

While multiplexes are shunning the film, some 100 independent theaters throughout Korea have agreed to screen “Okja,” its Korean distributor Next Entertainment World said Monday. Tickets can be reserved prior to its opening at seven theaters -- the Daehan Cinema, Seoul Cinema, Cheongju SFX Cinema, Incheon Aekwan Theater, Daegu Mangyeonggwan, Jeonju Cinema Town and Busan Cinema Center. 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com

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June 13, 2017

'Okja' receives mixed reviews 

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The poster of Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi drama film "Okja" is hung on the building of Daehan Cinema before the press preview in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Monday. / Yonhap

By Kim Jae-heun The Korea Times

"Okja," a film by popular Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, received mixed reviews from critics at its press preview at Daehan Cinema in Jung-gu, Seoul, Monday.

Some 1,000 film industry insiders and reporters flocked to watch Bong's first collaboration with the U.S. streaming service giant Netflix. 

The sci-fi drama was finally unveiled to receive comments only on its story and not on the controversy over the unprecedented distribution method of releasing the film concurrently on Netflix and at local theaters. 

Movie critic Lee Myung-hee said that she received the impression that Bong's view of the world broadened and "Okja" reminded her of Bong's previous film "The Host" _ in which he criticizes humans through monsters created by the greed of humans.

"The story could have become more serious, but Bong avoided this by managing to include many satirical elements in between. Still, the movie shocked the audience," said Lee in the interview with local press.

Another movie critic Hwang Jin-mi agreed that Bong's "Okja" confronts today's issue of transnational capital exploiting not only human labor but any creature living on earth. Hwang praised the Korean director for successfully expanding social issues to a global scale.

Still, Hwang said she felt "Okja" lacked Bong's unique style of wit and ingenuity typical of his films.

Other critics shared views that the story showed a unique relationship between the gigantic animal Okja and a country girl Mija and Okja's expressive eyes captured many viewers' hearts.

However, they added that the plot is very predictable and it is portrayed too simply. Some pointed out the improper casting of Hollywood actors and Korean movie stars, who infuse different styles of emotions to the film.

"Okja" to screen in seven local theaters 

Korea's two biggest cinema chains, CJ CGV and Lotte Entertainment, maintained their position to refuse a screening ban of "Okja" in Korea, alleging that Netflix is disrupting the local film distribution market.

Netflix and Bong are keeping their stance and pushed to unveil the sci-fi drama film at the end of this month concurrently on the Netflix platform and at local theaters.

"Okja" became a hot potato on the global film scene as well as in its homeland for its attempt to distribute the film in an unprecedented way.

NEW, the local distributor of "Okja," said it has agreed to screen the film at 100 independent theaters here. Seven theaters have opened reservations for the film as of yesterday.

jhkim@ktimes.com

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June 13, 2017

'Okja' Gets 1st Screening in Korea

By Lee Tae-hoon The Chosun Ilbo

Bong Joon-ho's Netflix-produced CGI spectacular "Okja" had its first screening in Korea on Monday after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last month.

Some 1,000 reporters including about 30 from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines attended the preview.

There was even a smattering of staff from CGV, the country's biggest movie theater chain, which has refused to screen the film over a spat with Netflix. CGV is miffed that Netflix wants to release the film simultaneously online and on screens, flying in the face of industry wisdom that gives cinemas first shot at any release.

Lotte Cinema has not yet decided whether to screen the film, but staff also attended the screening. 

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Reporters gather for a preview of Bong Joon-ho's Netflix-produced CGI spectacular "Okja" at a theater in Seoul on Monday.
The film itself is an uncontroversial piece of cheerful hokum in which a girl from a mountain village risks everything to rescue her best friend -- a massive, genetically modified hippo-pig named Okja that has been kidnapped by a multinational company.

It stars Tilda Swinton as the Cruella De Vil character and Ahn Seo-hyun as the girl, with support from Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Netflix invested US$50 million in the film, which is scheduled for release here on June 29.

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June 14, 2017

'Okja' director throws jab at Cannes for abrupt rule change

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho on Wednesday threw a jab at the organizers of this year's Cannes Film Festival, saying that it should have fixed its rules regarding streaming-only films before inviting his Netflix-produced movie "Okja."

"It would have been preferable if the Cannes festival would have put the rules in order before inviting us. Inviting us and creating a controversy, what an embarrassment," Bong told reporters at a media event for "Okja" in Seoul.

The Netflix film about the friendship between a genetically modified "super pig" and a farm girl was among 18 titles chosen for the main competition lineup for the 70th edition of the festival last month.

Bong Joon-ho, South Korean director of the new Netflix film "Okja," speaks to reporters at a press conference for the upcoming movie on June 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

Bong Joon-ho, South Korean director of the new Netflix film "Okja," speaks to reporters at a press conference for the upcoming movie on June 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

Cannes changed its rules to exclude films without a commitment for a French theatrical release from next year, facing strong protest from the local film industry against the Netflix movie's advance to the Cannes' competition category.

"There were two Netflix films at this year's festival. We directors are busy people producing films. I don't think we can afford to study France's domestic laws while making movies," Bong said.

Co-written by Bong and Jon Ronson of "Frank," Okja follows a girl from a rural town who risks everything to prevent a multinational company from kidnapping her close friend and super pig named Okja.

The sci-fi film was co-produced by three Hollywood studios -- Plan B, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company -- while Netflix covered the film's entire budget of US$50 million.

It stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal of "Nightcrawler" and "Everest," and Paul Dano of "Love & Mercy" and "12 Years a Slave," and has Korean actors such as An Seo-hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Choi Woo-shik and Yoon Je-moon among its cast.

The film isn't without controversy at home though. Simultaneously with its June 28 release on Netflix, the U.S. streaming giant promised that it will make the movie available at South Korean theaters as well. But the country's three major multiplexes -- CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox -- are refusing to show the film unless guaranteed a minimum three-week holdback on streaming.

So far the film has secured about 70 independent cinemas for its theatrical showing.

"The controversy was caused due to my cinematic selfishness. I am the one who provided the cause," Bong said, explaining that he envisioned the movie being shown on the big screen, alongside being released on Netflix.

Bong said he fully understands both sides of the row and expressed hope that "Okja" would become a "signal flare" in establishing new rules relating to similarly produced films.

"I fully understand the multiplexes asking for a minimum three-week hold back. Netflix's principle for a simultaneous release should also be respected."

odissy@yna.co.kr

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June 14, 2017

Bong Joon-ho speaks up on ‘Okja’ controversy

Bong expresses understanding toward Korean cinema chains’ dilemma on simultaneous online release

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Ahn Seo-hyun (left) and Bong Joon-ho attend a press conference for the film “Okja” at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Director Bong Joon-ho opened up on the controversy that has been surrounding his film “Okja” and its backer Netflix’s decision to release it simultaneously in theaters and online in Korea, at a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday.

The filmmaker began by mentioning the Cannes Film Festival’s mishandling of Netflix movies. 

Although the festival invited Netflix films “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories” to compete for the Palme d’Or this year in May, it later announced that movies not planned for theatrical release in France would not be eligible for the award starting 2018. The two Netflix films were not planned for theatrical release in France: Korea, the UK and the US were the only countries where the streaming giant planned both theatrical and online releases.

“(The festival) invited us and then caused a stir, making us embarrassed. They should have put the rules in place and then invited us. How can I as a filmmaker study local French laws while making films?” said Bong. 

French laws stipulate movies must wait three years after theatrical release before they can be made available online.

“I think ‘Okja’ contributed as an issue-maker (for the festival), seeing that Lars von Trier was not invited this year,” Bong joked, referring to the Danish director famous for tackling controversial subjects.

“But the situation is different in Korea,” Bong said, admitting that Netflix’s decision went against the existing ecosystem of the Korean film industry. 

Major Korean theater chains have been opposing Netflix’s plan for simultaneous online and theatrical release, arguing that customarily, films are screened in theaters for at least a few weeks before becoming available online.

“I fully understand the position of Korean multiplex theaters. ... But I also think Netflix’s principle of simultaneous streaming should be respected. ‘Okja’ has been made with the subscription fees of Netflix viewers and we cannot tell them to wait until after (the movie) has screened in theaters. I respect that.”

Bong also assumed responsibility for the kerfuffle in Korea. “I think (this situation) has arisen from my cinematic greed. Netflix hasn’t tried to push through with theatrical releases (abroad) but Korea is a unique case. That is because of me. While filming with (cinematographer Darius Khondji), we wanted as many people as possible in the US, UK and Korea to be able to see the film on the big screen. It was my greed.”

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Tilda Swinton attends a press conference for the film “Okja” at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Bong expressed hope that necessary regulations and systems would be put in place as a result of this controversy. 

“I think this film arrived too early, before the rules have been put in place. I hope it will mark the first firing shot of (the implementation) of relevant rules.”

Korea’s largest cinema chain CGV has refused to screen the film, while Lotte Cinema and Megabox are still deliberating. However, a number of smaller, independent theaters throughout the country, including Seoul’s Daehan Cinema and Seoul Cinema, have agreed to carry “Okja,” a decision which Bong welcomed.

“It’s an opportunity to visit theaters we’ve forgotten for a while. I’m satisfied with the current situation,” he said. “I hope (the film) will be able to meet you for a long time, even if in fewer places.” 

Bong’s latest creature feature tells the story of country girl Mija on a quest to rescue the gigantic super-pig Okja. It is set to hit a handful of local theaters and Netflix’s international streaming platform on June 29.

Multiculturalism, optimism and humanity in “Okja”

A number of the film’s cast members, also present at the press event, spoke about what the project had meant to them.

Korean-American Steven Yeun, who stars as radical animal-rights activist K, said filming had been a “surreal” experience. K is also a Korean-American character who acts as translator within the film’s multi-ethnic ensemble. 

“I literally played K and was K during the film. I’m from (Korea) but I need a translator. ... And in America, there’s the perception that someone who looks like me is not necessarily from there. It’s a lonely middle line that I share with all the immigrants in America.

“(The film) told a unique experience that hasn’t been conveyed in this way before.” 

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Steven Yeun attends a press conference for the film “Okja” at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

According to British actress Tilda Swinton, who stars as psychopathic CEO Lucy Miranda, the film suggested optimism for human growth.

“(There are) two young creatures at the heart of the film. In many ways it is about growing up. It suggests that when we grow up, we don’t have to give up love, the sense of family, trusting each other, (and) the idea that it’s possible not to tell lies … and survive.”

Giancarlo Esposito, who stars as a top associate in the Mirando corporation, said the film was about “wonder and enchantment” for him.

“Visionary movies allow you to... look deeper inside yourself, and how you want to be toward the world around you.

“There’s hope, reverence for the grand architect of the universe who created this wonderful space for us to play in.”

“We live in an exhausting world that centers on money,” said Bong. “I think (Mija and Okja) show something that cannot be destroyed even today.”

Why a girl, why a pig? 

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Giancarlo Esposito attends a press conference for the film “Okja” at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Asked why the main protagonist is a young girl, Bong replied, “I think it’s so much more beautiful when little girls show strength, than little boys.”

Ahn Seo-hyun, 13, who portrayed the headstrong Mija, had immediately understood that she was to be the caretaker of the huge creature Okja upon reading the script, Bong said.

The decision to make many of the central characters female, including Okja, was a natural one, Bong said. “I didn’t come at it from a feminist perspective but as the story came together, I realized the main axes had to be women.” 

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Daniel Henshall (left) and Byun Hee-bong attend a press conference for the film “Okja” at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

While Okja is a genetic hybrid of an elephant, a hippo and a pig, Bong made her a pig because of what the animal stood for in the food industry.

“When you look at a pig, you think of food, which I think must be unfair for the pig, which is actually a very clean, beautiful and intelligent creature.

“There’s no other animal that symbolizes the duality of animals so well -- their beauty and their food status,” said Bong. 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com

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PHOTOS June 14, 2017

Source: The Chosun Ilbo via HanCinema.net

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Hollywood actress Tilda Swinton attends a red carpet event for her new film "Okja" in Seoul on Tuesday. /Newsis

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Ahn Seo-hyun

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Daniel Henshall

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Steven Yeun, Byun Hee-bong and Choi Woo-shik

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Director Bong Joon-ho

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Director Bong Joon-ho, Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-hyun, Steven Yeun, Giancarlo Esposito, Daniel Henshall, Byun Hee-bong and Choi Woo-shik

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June 15, 2017

‘Okja’ director sees good in debate :

Bong Joon-ho expects controversies around film to create new rules

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

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Ahead of the release of the Netflix-funded “Okja,” its director Bong Joon-ho, far right, and stars like Tilda Swinton, second from left, and An Seo-hyun, third from left, attended a press conference to discuss the movie. [YONHAP]

Auteur Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix-funded “Okja” has been creating controversies both within and outside of Korea ever since it was invited to compete at Cannes Film Festival last month. The film was criticized in Cannes for skipping a theatrical release and heading straight to Netflix, and a similar controversy erupted in Korea after the country’s major multiplexes - CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox - have spoken out against Netflix’s decision to simultaneously open the movie in theaters and on the streaming site in Korea.

But despite all the controversy, its director believes there is a positive side to creating a new distribution order in the film industry. 

“Though it was never intended, ‘Okja’ has caused controversies wherever it went, which resulted in creating new rules [in the film industry],” said Bong during a press conference held Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in central Seoul.

“[Following the controversy surrounding ‘Okja’], Cannes has set new rules on how it will deal with Netflix movies (starting next year) though I believe the rules should have been set before inviting the films.” 

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“Okja” will be released in Korea in theaters and on Netflix on June 29. [NETFLIX]

Bong further added that himself and Noah Baumbach (the director behind Netflix-funded “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which also competed at this year’s Cannes) are filmmakers who are preoccupied with making movies, and therefore, cannot afford to think about other issues like studying French law. 

Bong continued, “I personally don’t understand why Cannes tries to apply French cinematic rules to the invited films, considering it is an international film event.”

The director expressed quite a different point of view on the film’s controversy in Korea and explained it was derived out of his “cinematic greed.”

“Things are a little different in Korea. I completely understand the position of multiplex cinemas wanting at least a three-week hold period [as they believe the simultaneous release of the movie disturbs film’s distribution structure]. I also respect the stance of Netflix, as the movie was made out of the subscription fees from Netflix users, and therefore, it wouldn’t be fair to make them wait for the sake of moviegoers.

“I believe I was the one that caused this problem, as I have repeatedly said while shooting the film that it would be great if it can also be screened on big screens… I think the problem is that the film arrived before local industries set their rules on the issue, but I hope ‘Okja’ can function as a movie that can set new rules and principles in the Korean film industry,” Bong said while also apologizing for the fuss the movie has caused. 

Centering on the friendship of a girl from the countryside named Mija (An Seo-hyun) and her best friend - a super-pig named Okja - the movie unfolds as Mija tries to save Okja from being taken to Mirando Corporation, where it was originally created by tweaking a breed of Chilean pig to create super-sized animal for human pork consumption. Tilda Swinton plays the CEO of the multinational corporation while Jake Gyllenhaal plays a zealous yet devastated zoologist who supports the corporation.

The heartwarming tale is about growing up, according to Swinton, who was present at the press event along with co-stars Byun Hee-bong, An Seo-hyun, Steven Yeun, Giancarlo Esposito and Daniel Henshall.

“We have these two young creatures in the heart of the film: Mija and Okja. In many ways the film is about growing up. I think the suggestion [the movie makes] is that through their story and quest, when you grow up, whatever age, we don’t have to give up love, we don’t have to give up sense of family, we don’t have to give up trusting each other and we don’t have to give up on the idea that it’s possible to not tell lies,” said Swinton.

So far “Okja” has been acquired by 70 cinemas in Korea, including Daehan Cinema and Cinecube in central Seoul. But the film’s theatrical release in major cinema chains, which account for more than 90 percent of the entire market, has not yet been decided. The movie will open via theaters and Netflix on June 29.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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June 15, 2017

Director Diplomatic in 'Okja' Screening Controversy

By Lee Tae-hoon The ChosunIlbo

Bong Joon-ho took the blame Wednesday for the screening controversy about his latest film "Okja" and expressed hope that the spat between producer Netflix and Korean cinema chains can be resolved amicably.

"I am responsible for all this fuss. I had just thought it would be great to provide viewers with more channels and opportunities to watch my film, but it seems I wanted too much," Bong told reporters at a press conference in Seoul.

Market leader CGV and other cinema chains here are up in arms at Netflix's insistence on releasing "Okja" simultaneously in theaters and online, saying this "will disturb the entire distribution system in Korea."

The theater chains threatened to boycott the film unless they can get their usual theatrical release first.

But the streaming service, which spent US$50 million on "Okja," wants to release it online simultaneously on June 29.

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Director Bong Joon-ho (center) speaks at a press junket for his latest film "Okja" in a hotel in Seoul on Wednesday along with cast members. /Newsis

Next Entertainment World, which distributes it in Korea, said the film will open the same day in around 70 independent theaters here.

"Multiplexes want a three-week hold-back, which I understand because that's what is natural for exhibitors. On the other hand, Netflix has its simultaneous release policy, which I also respect," said Bong. "New rules are being made because of these controversies."

He said one example was this year's Cannes Film Festival, which normally excludes TV productions, and expressed hope that the industry here will also use it as an opportunity to revise its set rules.

Meanwhile, Bong revealed that his next film "Parasite," starring Song Kang-ho, will be a 100-percent Korean-language film.

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