After watching this film I felt inspired to write a review of sorts about it as it's so relevant to today's animal cruelty crisis.
This is a film about a relationship between a little girl and her strange & unusual pet. That’s what it appears like on the surface anyway, it doesn’t take long to see that it’s really about greed, speciesism and a harrowing near-future prediction of our own world…
The film begins with a press conference where a new genetically engineered ‘Super-pig’ is being revealed by the CEO of a huge corporation called ‘Mirando’. These pigs promise the future of high-quality meat at low costs, they are economical and very, very big! But before the pigs can be harvested they must first be tested. So, ten of these wonderful beasts are sent to the far corners of the globe. One of those corners being South Korea and this is where the story really begins, ten years later, with a little girl called Mija and her Super-pig pet named Okja. After being told by her kind of cold-hearted grandfather that Okja is hers for life, her pet is mercilessly taken by the Mirando corporation to eventually end up as a pork burger (which her Grandad knew all along). Mija, not standing for this begins her quest to return her beloved pet to the mountains of South Korea. Her journey takes her far and wide, along the way she meets many new friends and foes. But will she be successful in getting Okja back from the multi-billion dollar corporation ‘Mirando’? How can this giant be overcome when she is but a tiny fish in a huge, huge ocean!?
There are so many great elements to this film. Maybe it’s the Totoro’esk relationship between Mija and Okja or the brilliant performances of the actors, never before has Jake Gyllenhaal been so repulsive to look at (trust me, it hurts me to say this!) or has Tilda Swinton been so fantastic at being a loving, ditsy yet cold-hearted bitch but the thing I really love is the Vegetarian/Vegan message that it delivers so excellently.
The treatment of the Super-pigs in this film is an uncomfortable parallel to the way we treat animals in our world, anyone who disagrees with this need only to watch ‘Meet your meat’ on YouTube to see the truth of these words. There are parts in this film which are difficult to watch, you can’t help but look away at some of the later scenes where the animals are abused. At least we can look away from the screen and remember it’s not real. A luxury that animals in real life, unfortunately don’t have…
The director (John Ho Bong) has used Mirando, super pigs, Mija and a group of animal activists to paint a perfect picture of what is happening in our real world. The greed of corporations is overlooking the human side of animals and the pain done to them in favour of profitable gain whilst keeping 99% of the population oblivious by hiding the brutal truth of how their meat gets into that nice and neat little package on the supermarket shelf.
I wasn’t expecting an animal cruelty theme when we first put the film on, it was just a film we had wanted to watch simply because the picture of the pig looked cool and interesting. We were expecting a simple story with a simple theme, oh were we wrong! Don’t get me wrong, the film is still delightful, positive and happy. It has some very brutal and explicit moments in that that aren’t for the faint of heart but it manages to be totally entertaining and fun to watch too. The surreal, almost Tim Burton style of the film and acting create the feeling of lightheartedness which keeps it easy to watch without reaching for the closest razor blade but the harrowing message toward the end sinks in deep. There are scenes that seem like a scary comparison to an animal version of the Holocaust, this was said to me after explaining the story to a friend, I think it was an excellent way to describe it.
Speciesism is a relatively new term becoming more and more well known. After all, we have racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination and many more words to describe prejudice toward another so why not speciesism? In fact, why has it taken so long? Just because animals can’t speak and express themselves like we can doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a right to a free and fair life just like the rest of us. It may be easy to palm off the bad treatment of animals for our own satisfaction by saying things like ‘it’s not that bad where I come from’ or ‘we would have heard about it if it were happening’, but is it? And would you? Do you actually know where and how these animals are treated? Have you researched to see if there are stories of animal cruelty in factory farms (and little farms) in your local area or country? If you had, and I mean really had found out about these things to understand where the meat you're eating is coming from and how it was treated before you ate it I can guarantee that a large percentage of people would become vegetarian and fight for the freedom of animals. Without going into too much of a rant, they are living things with feelings and should not be imprisoned and treated harshly just so we can eat them. Huge corporations and supermarkets are to blame for factory farms and this inhumane treatment of animals. They hide these truths from us and we don’t ask questions until activists and people who want to make a difference reveal these truths for us, even when those stories are normally covered up which is why is so important that we always research our news ourselves and find independent and reliable sources.
This is what the film does so well, it shows us the truth behind how animals are being treated whilst also keeping itself entertaining. It’s cleverly done and pulls all the right heartstrings to make you realise ‘hang on, maybe this is really happening!’ There are many other elements that add to this in the movie that I don’t want to spoil for you but you should watch it and see how it makes you feel.
It’s a near-future film and I think it’s an accurate prediction of where we’re heading in terms of how we see and treat animals. If we genetically engineer our own species to eat, then that gives us even more right to kill it and eat it, right?... That’s what I think the director is trying to portray and also hoping to avoid by awakening people to it.
If you want to watch an interesting film with a fantastic cast and an entertaining storyline then this is the movie for you.