‘Okja,’ ‘Merciless’ rattled in both Cannes, Korea

By Rumy Doo
  • Published : May 19, 2017 - 18:21
  • Updated : May 19, 2017 - 18:24
Two of the five Korean films screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival have found themselves embroiled in a scandal, both in and out of the country.

“Okja” is caught in a clash between its producer Netflix and French cinemas. “The Merciless” has sparked outrage among Korean spectators due to its director’s misled online tweets.

During its Friday premiere, “Okja” was met with “whistles and jeers” by critics during a technical hitch in its premiere Friday, according to AFP.

The screening was stopped for eight minutes when a curtain malfunctioned and hit part of the screen, AFP reported. Some critics had whistled at the beginning when the “Netflix” logo popped onscreen.

“Ha, this (film) is really not made for the cinema,” one spectator shouted as the screening was halted, AFP said.

“Okja,” the $50 million creature feature directed by Bong Joon-ho and competing for the Palme d’Or, got off to a shaky start at Cannes after its producer Netflix refused to open the film for general release in French theaters after the festival.

The content-streaming giant’s favoring of only making it available online caused uproar among French cinema owners, certain critics and Cannes jury members.

Spanish director and jury President Pedro Almodovar said Wednesday he could not imagine “the Palme d’Or nor any other prize being given to a film, and then not being able to see that film on a large screen.”

This file photo shows the Netflix company logo at the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California Wednesday, April 13, 2011. The Cannes film festival effectively slapped a ban on future Netflix-backed movies after the streaming giant refused to screen its two films in this year’s competition in French cinemas. (AFP-Yonhap)

Misled remarks

“The Merciless” has been suffering from a dip in ticket sales here since its director Byun Sung-hyun’s misogynistic tweets came into light Thursday.

The tweets contained such incendiary remarks as “No woman with a big butt has a bad personality.” “I can’t promote my film because of the presidential elections. Postpone the elections,” Byun also wrote, referring to the Korean presidential elections held May 9.

The tweets were posted and re-posted by the handle “kwang7895,” revealed to belong to Byun, and led some spectators to declare a boycott of the film.

Also retweeted were sexual remarks about the characters in the director’s Cannes-bound action flick, Jae-ho, played by Seol Kyung-gu, and Hyun-soo, played by Im Si-wan.

“I’d like to see Hyun-soo sit on Jae-ho’s lap,” and “They were having sex all throughout the film,” read the tweets.

Byun Sung-hyun (Yonhap)

Byun promptly posted an apology. “Thinking that social media was a personal space, I cause a lot of harm through my thoughtlessly written words,” he said. “I want to stress that I am not a discriminator of region or gender,” he added.

“Though ashamed, I would like to ask one thing. ‘The Merciless’ is only my movie. It’s the result of the sweat and efforts of hundreds of crew members. I hope the film will not be hampered from receiving due credit due to my shortcomings.”

The film is set to screen on May 24 at the midnight screenings category.

By Rumy Doo and news reports (doo@heraldcorp.com)