Okja (2017) Review

director: Joon-ho Bong

writers: Joon-ho Bong & Jon Ronson

starring: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano and Seo-Hyun Ahn 

genre: Adventure | Drama

released: 28 June 2017 on Netflix

Many would say that politics and ideology were always present in films, but it seems lately that this is an ever more present phenomenon with virtue signaling in award shows and political correctness in the film business like we have never seen before. It could also be that a lot of us are more mature as adults and these things are clearer now than ever before. However, I don't think that is necessarily the case overall. As I fail to remember seeing a film such as this, where the filmmakers disregarded completely the fact that they were making a film for entertainment, but instead for purposes of advocacy.


Set in the near future, the world has finally been able to move past GMO plants and foods to create the first GMO animal, the Super Pig. The company who created this new pig has made a contest to see which nation of the Earth could produce the best quality super pig out of them all. With the winner ultimately being a pig from the nation of Japan.

This Japanese Super Pig named Okja will be taken to the company HQ for testing and pushed to the next phase in the process of the Super Pig program. This program will be put to the test with the 'Animal Freedom Force' and Okja's young owner trying to sabotage the GMO company's efforts and prevent Okja from becoming inevitably somebody else's dinner.


'Okja' is a film that tells you a fictional tale that you can never relate to as it isn't a real example of animal cruelty from the modern day world and wants to steer your mind into thinking a certain way without presenting all the facts or views of every side. Films like these exist to drive a certain political narrative and not to tell us a narrative with characters that go through a specific arc. Where they will learn something about the world around them and grow because of it. The people who create these films believe the story needs to be told to suit their world view and never the other way around.

At the time of this film's release back in June of 2017, social media and news media in general ate it up as it pushed an agenda convenient to their ideology. With articles and comments speaking at great lengths at how much this film made you think and how cruel we are as human beings. Forgetting of the other world problems such as extreme poverty and malnutrition in third world countries that are far greater problems and instead equating to many extents the plight of animals to humans. With the film itself portraying Super Pig farming to a concentration camp rather a normal run of the mill slaughterhouse establishment. Also, we have to note that of course not all abattoirs operate perfectly to humanely slaughter animals, but still we should never equate the slaughter of animals to the loss of human life. If no animal should ever be killed why don't we have police paroling the African Savanna so Lions don't attack any Gazelle or Zebras?

Naturally, most people don't want to be cruel in their lives for either moral reasons, or simply just because we live societies where a minimum level of kindness and respect is needed to co-exist. Also, most would love not to hurt a living thing if they could do otherwise, but also most are subject to living their lives based on their culture, beliefs and technology that exists. So be as it may that animals are sometimes harmed in order to be our food, we still eat them nonetheless as its a part of our way of life and because we are omnivorous and willing participants in the natural food chain. What though stood out more than anything else in this film was that it wasn't making any clear cut arguments to the audience and tried to let the narrative do the job for it in peculiar manner either through the films casual showcase of company policies, to forgetting completely why people eat meet and continue to and with fictional events to stir up your emotions and let feelings get the better of you rather than reason and logic. 

Which inherently led to the problem of too much compassion given to the one side and not much logic to the other. While also the fact that many of these events require a lot of imagination and departure from reality to accept. As we are talking about a ridiculous fake company that went out of their way to bio engineer super pigs that could have been the same size as normal pigs and also a whole lot dumber and not even remotely as intelligent as dogs. While also the portrayal of the "heroes" with bravado behavior and backed by sentimental music, while also shots and a narrative that make them seem as justified in their actions. Even though, throughout the film they are committing criminal actions and allowing a minor to participate with them as an accomplice. It would have been wiser to simply had the film as a classic narrative and let it explore just a bit the other side of what is the slaughterhouse and our cultural practices of eating animals from our participation in the food chain. As this film is completely bleak without any hope and portraying the world and the economic system of capitalism as evil through fake example and artificial scenarios.


This isn't your typical film meant for entertainment purposes, but instead exists for swaying the masses towards a specific direction without any regard of what the other side thinks or says and paints with a broad stroke of the brush a generic view of the people who sell and eat meat.

Personal Rating:

review by Paul Katsaros

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