After watching the trailer for the highly anticipated film about a young Korean girl, Mija and her rotund super-pig Okja, I was super excited to watch what I essentially thought would be a fable of love. I was suckered in at the start by the incredible CGI, the originality and sweetness of the film until the true message of it hit me hard and fast.
The two main themes corporate greed and animal rights become abundant and the fairytale aspect of the movie slips away making room for a realistic depiction of the worldwide animal agriculture industries. The film zeros in on what drives these large corporations, it’s not ‘feeding the world’ – it’s profit. Money talks in ‘Okja’ and money talks in the real world. Mirando Corporation, creators of the super-pig, hide their lies by disguising their animal products as eco-friendly and non-GMO when they are really developed in labs and farmed in cruelly intensive conditions.
Mija’s love for Okja highlights the bond between human and animal, growing up in the mountains away from big cities and big money, she grew to love her super-pig and best friend and would do anything for her. It’s hard not to tear up when such innocence is dragged into an unknown world of enormous greed, corruption and betrayal.
The heroes of the day are the ALF (based on the Animal Liberation Front, founded in 1976, known for rescuing caged animals). In the storyline Jay, a humble but serious activist, crosses paths with Mija while trying to rescue Okja and expose the horrors the Mirando Corporation is trying to bury. Things don’t always go according to plan for the good guys and the viewer is compelled to be either on the edge of their seat or huddling up in a ball of tears. This film excels at being able to draw a strong emotional reaction, first it was a strong feeling of love followed by a lot of anger, then some more love and ultimately sadness. I wanted an experience and I got one.
The ending, although satisfying in one respect is left open with a permanent sobering message, the animals that are bred for food are not able to retreat to the mountains and escape a fate of slaughter. They are confined in cruel, overcrowded conditions in intensive farms, they are scared, alone and unloved. I have already read that ‘Okja’ has made people think more compassionately about what they are eating including the film director Bong Joon-ho who went vegan after visiting a slaughterhouse while doing research for the movie.
The most disappointing aspect of this film is that it didn’t make the big screen, although I did enjoy watching it from the comfort of my couch in my track pants and with the added bonus of being able to experience various emotions in the privacy of my home. For those who watch ‘Okja’ and are ready to make positive change, SAFE has a free 100% Vegetarian Starter Guide and six-week challenge to encourage compassionate New Zealanders to eat kind.
Rating: 4 ½ stars
Krysta Neve, SAFE Programme Officer (Eat Kind)