Okja (Netflix) Review from a KOREAN-AMERICAN Carnivore.
I love meat, especially bacon - ummmm, bacon and Okja is a big giant bacon pig.
Before I begin my review of the actual film, a criticisms as a Korean... I didn’t realize si gor (country side) still existed in Korea... Why do I think Korea is more modern, like with k-pop? Maybe that is the American in me.
Let me begin by saying Okja is cute even though it is huge pig rhinosaurous and shits a lot and I mean a lot! I think it farted and shit more than a few times in the first 10 minutes of the film.
So now that I got the non-story related critical part of me out, the film changed in tone and won me over when an obvious Korean-American gay guy in a truck appeared with a heavy American accent, a nuance only a Korean-American would know who I came later to discover was Steven Yuen! from “Walking Dead”. BTW, not meant to play gay and so awesome. It was just the funny accent that made me think he was gay.
So “Okja” is a girl with pet, pet gets into trouble and she has to rescue her pet story with adventures along the way and a protagonist who is a powerful, heartless and greedy corporation lead by a woman, Tilda Swinton.
I have to note my observation that most of Tilda’s wardrobe, actually all of her wardrobe was beautiful and obviously Korean in the style of Han Bok (a traditional Korean dress which yet again only a Korean-American would recognize).
The film is entertaining and takes you for a ride but for me, the thing about the film that makes it so special is that it is an international film that is colored by a non-Hollywood traditional perspective of a Caucasian male creator.
To me, that is what makes this traditional story of girl and her pet special.
Some of you may know, I grew up in a Korean-American video store that my parents owned. I spent numerous hours watching Korean drama and Hollywood films. "Okja" was like watching Korean drama mashed with Hollywood action adventure, kinda like watching "Smile, Dong Hae" & "Indiana Jones" meets "Lassie". Stoked! In Heaven! Awesome!!
And growing up half in Korea and other half in America, I struggled between the 2 cultures.
In “Okja”, I got the most delight when the 2 cultures clashed into one, like Steven Yuen and like the obvious Anglo Animal Rights Activist in a meat-eating, mono-cultured Korea. I wished there were more moments where they explored that because those are the moments where I had the most delight and laughter but when the story came to America, those moments disappeared.
In those culture-clashing, awkward moments, this film reminded me of my show - MILFriend (Mother I Like to Friend) a comedy about crazy moms where the show is designed to do exactly that and where I explore the idea of gentrification and getting people out of their comfort zone. Ok, now that I tooted my horn...
I will say “Okja” is a start of a new trend in film-making that is only possible because of streaming and other forms created outside of traditional Hollywood and I am excited to be a part of this new trend where we are inclusive of diverse voices and stories.
The moral of “Okja” is = it’s ok to kill fish but not pigs.