Okja will be available on Netflix in 2 days

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It is only missing 2 days to watch Okja by South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho on Netflix. The movie caused rifts of opinion at Cannes Film Festival because it will be premiered on this platform in 190 countries before its release in some theaters. Traditional model of distribution wants to keep the exclusivity and traditional moviegoers don’t accept new scenarios either, because some consider anything can replace the dark screen.

The two powerful VOD platforms worldwide, Netflix and Amazon, have continued their firm steps by producing films. The clear example of their good and robust productions are the three movies that this year were selected in the most important Film Festival in industry. The 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival had in its official selection to: Wonderstruck (Amazon) and Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (Netflix).

But what should have been seen as a victory of streaming distribution was marred for the strong controversy unleashed for traditional industry sector.

Since the moment Cannes artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, reported the selection of Okja in the official competition, French exhibitors blamed as traitors to the organization of this film event. To settle the matter that was agitated even a month before the start of the film festival, Netflix tried to negotiate with French theaters without relinquishing to its platform, so no agreement was reached, as was expected. Film Festival was finally forced to announce that as of 2018 any production without a release on French theaters will no longer be taken into account in its official selection anymore. The decision, of course, affects these platforms because they would be forced to wait a maximum of 36 months to exhibit a film via streaming, which is considered the last seat of exhibition. The embrace to Video On Demand lasted a very short time, despite it was welcomed at first sight.

President of official competition this year, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, told that under no circumstances new platforms of distribution could replace traditional ones, because they should not change the habits of audience and he went further when said he wouldn’t give the main prize to a film unreleased on big screens. On the contrary, actor Will Smith, another member of the jury, defended this model by saying it is not trying to replace traditional exhibition and nowadays movie theaters are used by young people to watch the spectacle offered by commercial productions essentially.

Tensions were evident when in its first exhibition to press at Cannes,  there was technical failures by forcing to the organization to apologize. Part of the audience booed when logos of Netflix appeared on the screen, while others expressed their support.

Okja is directed by South Korean Bon Joon Ho, who has participated at Cannes frequently. He has described his new film as a satirical fable that explores the animal side of all human beings have asleep. The film is the story of a young girl who comes from a little town in Korea and travels to USA. During her journey she finds Ok-ja, a popular female name gave to a giant creature created by a food corporation, which she builds a great friendship.

With this production, the director of “The host”, returns fantasy genre and works with a cast full of stars like Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, who were present in the press conference where Bon Joon-Ho defended to Netflix by saying as a producer, the company gave a high budget, something unusual for an independent production, as well it gave him total artistic freedom and support.

Let us remember Joon-Ho had made movies in almost all kind of genres, he likes to challenge audience and doesn’t give them comfortable spaces, something he has said he doesn’t do it on purpose and that his only intention is to make films that can be watched.

Tilda Swinton also talked about distribution controversy and said it is a necessary discussion, but she was more interested in showing the film and not to compete for the Palme D’or. Swinton remembered that in the history of the festival there have had many films that haven’t reached distribution on theaters at all.

Okja serves as a condemnation of brutal capitalism and the big gaps it has caused. Besides, it talks about human injustices and animal abuses. Director has said it has a message about the importance of having a harmony between human and animals.

Jake Gyllenhaall, who worked together the director a peculiar voice, a shrill one, said that when he read the screenplay had been profoundly touched with the story and wanted to be involved in this project about the unconventional journey of a girl.

Critical Response

Okja received, in general terms, a good reception at Cannes. Screen Daily published through Jonathan Romney that this is a funny movie despite of being a little bit exaggerated. Meanwhile, famous critic of The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw, gave it five stars (from five possible) and even elevated to “ET” level. He said Okja is a wonderful movie whose energy, sympathy and purity make it very enjoyable.

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