The Korea Herald


Netflix will not be demise of theaters: ‘Okja’ director Bong Joon-ho

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 15, 2017 - 17:30

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Upcoming movie “Okja” has sparked heated debate about how films released almost exclusively online will affect the film industry, but the film‘s visionary director, Bong Joon-ho, doubts platforms like Netflix will replace theaters.

Controversy brewed over Netflix‘s refusal to screen “Okja” at French cinemas after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and the festival organizer’s announcement that from next year, any film that screens in competition will have to first commit to showing in French cinemas.

”Okja“ -- set for international release on June 29, Korean time -- will be released on Netflix in 190 countries. Only Korea, US and the UK will have theatrical release.

“I think streaming services (like Netflix) will co-exist with theaters eventually. This incident is just a process of finding out the best way for them to co-exist,” said Bong in a press conference in Seoul on Monday. “There are many ways we enjoy movies. They said that movies would become obsolete after TV came out, but they still co-exist,” he said.

Director Bong Joon-ho speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) Director Bong Joon-ho speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, emphasized that the online streaming services “will not be disruptive” for the theater industry.

“Distribution is something that will be argued for many years, because innovation is difficult,” he said.

Bong himself is a rather an old-fashioned director, replacing 35mm movie cameras with digital cameras for the first time with “Okja.” But he said that Netflix throwing its weight behind him in production tilted him toward shooting his first Netflix flick.

“The content of the film was very original and daring, so many investors were hesitant. The size of the film made them hesitant as well. But Netflix fully supported me,” he said.

Bong hinted that his new movie will “explode” with controversy in terms of story as well, which is expected when carte blanche is given to a director known for never shying away from socially-sensitive issues.

While not yet allowed to talk about the specifics, Bong said “Okja” will allow the viewers to ponder about how one views animals.

“We all have our own perspective toward animals. Some view them as friends or family; others view them as something to eat,” he said. “We hug them, talk to them and love them. The movie will give us a chance to think about the relationship between animals and humans. It will show the most beautiful aspect, along with the most hideous ones.”

“It was first known as a political film and in some respects, it could be. It does have political satire, and it is about this world we live in,” Bong said.

He added that he is both anxious and excited to show his film at Cannes, a film which he said is a “love story” between a girl and an animal. This story begins in the countryside of Gangwon Province, Korea and ends up in New York.

“I’m proud to say that I’ve made a beautiful film, and I can’t wait to share it so that I can talk about it,” Bong said.

By Yoon Min-sik