Beyond trends, beyond friendship
At the risk of generalization, films from different parts of the world evoke different feelings. An Iranian movie is bound to make you rise in love with humanity again. A Chinese film lays emphasis on everyday discipline under the garb of martial arts. African movies often salute the collective spirit of our species. French movies, with their adherence to loud intellectualism and sharp aesthetics, are a delight for your eyes as well as ears. Indian cinema, not just Bollywood, tends to throw colourful light on what’s holding us back as a society. Brazilian films can be as high on spirit as they can be low on production set. Nordic movies nicely cut through the bullshit our developing world is familiar with. Their counterparts in Japan place a mirror between what’s traditional and what’s not. Kiwi films can’t get gentler. And so on and so forth.
Since we’re on the subject, what do Korean films stand for, of course, generally speaking? The manner in which Korean cinema surged this century tells us something about ourselves too. We, the audience, were quite fed up of the cinematic add-ons. So, when curios such as Oldboy (2003), Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and Memories of Murders (2003) started making their presence felt on the Internet discussion boards, we lapped it up for their distinct rawness. Even a plate of salad couldn’t come close to Korean experimentation with the truth. Irrespective of the genre, showing things the way they are became a motto for the filmmakers. For instance, why show guns when it’s not even easily available in their country? Or rather, why not show hammers, sickles, knives, machetes, etc. when they are easily available? Chan-wook Park, among many others, is a fine example of this oh-so-obvious trend. In fact, when he made his first English language film, Stoker (2013), he maintained his Korean touch throughout.
Good for Korea. Better for cinema. Best for us.
Since this post is speaking in a generalized tone, i’ve got to admit that Okja (2017) defies the preconceived notions on all corners. This Korean-American film, directed by Joon-ho Bong, co-produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B and distributed by Netflix, exacts a healthy balance of different worlds. On paper, the story it relays is wishful thinking. Imagining how the future will be like while sticking to the present can be tricky as you’re primarily fidgeting with the hands of chronology. Moreover, the story of an impossibly mutated pig and her human friend sounds too polished to be true; say hello to an uncharacteristic overdose of CGI. For a Korean film, nonetheless. But then, it succeeds with a pace otherwise reserved for a F&F franchise. All thanks to its heart and soul staying where they belong. Okja reminds us that friendship transcends borders, languages, distances, cultures and even species. And if that’s wishful thinking, so be it.
Only one spoiler alert for you: By the end of the film, you might have a tear trolling your cheek. [Cheeks, if you aren’t a single tear person.]
Another spoiler alert for you: This film must feature in the self-flattering ‘Top 10/20/25 films of 2017’ you’ll read in January. [The list would be enormously worthless without Okja.]