Okja—Not for Children

Okja and Mija, BFF.

I just watched Okja (2017) a made-for-Netflix movie directed by Joon-ho Bong. Going into it, I thought I was going to see a children’s movie. I was mistaken.

Although the first two-thirds of the movie is bright and funny, the last third is dark and troubling, not appropriate fare for the under thirteen.

The title character, Okja, is a gigantic pig, one of 26 super pigs that were placed as piglets with farmers in different countries of the world by a corporation called Mirando.

Okja’s host farmer lives with his four-year-old orphaned granddaughter Mija on a mountain top in South Korea. At the end of ten years, the corporation comes to reclaim the pigs, the largest of which will be proclaimed super pig.

Okja is no Babe or Wilbur. She looks more like a hippopotamus than a pig. According to corporate hype, she is descended from a large pig that was found in Chile, but in fact, she is the product of bioengineering.

The fictional corporation Mirando is a thinly veiled proxy for real-life agri-giants like Monsanto. CEO Lucy Mirando is trying to humanize the company’s rapacious reputation with a public relations campaign that emphasizes the natural origins and wholesome upbringing of the super pigs.

When Mija discovers that the pig has been taken away, she goes in pursuit. Along the way, she is helped by animal activists who are as ruthless in their idealism as the corporate executives are in their greed.

I won’t go into detail because the film is still new and I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment by saying too much. When it has been around for a year or so, I may do a proper review.

The acting and production values are superb. The message is timely. This is the first made-for-Netflix movie that I have watched. I didn’t expect it to be so well done. It competes favorably with the best that Hollywood has to offer. So far, it’s been nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.