Okja: man’s new best friend

On May 19, the film Okja, by director Bong Joon-ho, debuted at the important Cannes festival. The film, distributed by Netflix, gave plenty to talk about environmental issues regarding the treatment of animals to be slaughtered. But what is more interesting is that the strategy taken by Joon-ho to make the public feel the despair of these beings was the creation of a new type of creature, which in the movie is called a super pig. With cutting-edge special effects and unique creativity, such a choice was very happy. Not only did the pig, Okja, become famous, but it also robbed the attention given to numerous famous actors, such as Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, with production roles.

The film tells the story of the relationship between Mija, a girl living in rural South Korea, played by Seo-hyun Ahn, and Okja. The beginning of the relationship between the two is already quite controversial. Okja was part of an initiative and scientific creation of the company Mirando Corporation. Twenty-six samples of giant cubs were then distributed around the world, so that years later a marketing campaign would crown only one winner (which in the film means the largest of them).

Unfortunately for Mija, Okja wins the unfortunate competition. Your grandfather exchanges it for gold since you can not buy it. Seeing this as a betrayal of her favorite animal and friend, Mija then decides to go after the pig, on a dangerous mission that relies on misunderstanding and betrayal. However, in his attempt to rescue the creature, Mija realizes that he is not the only one to be treated inhumanly – being only one among thousands of other super-pigs.

In a movie that begins as a comedy and ends as drama, one of the only constants is the charisma of Okja. The fact that the extravagant animal has been completely computer-generated, something that usually gives the character a cooler tone, impresses not only by looking real, but precisely by making the being appear warm and friendly. We forget that this is a visual effect and we hope for Okja more than any other character. But how was this done?

Erik-Jan de Boer, who is responsible for the visual effects of the film, and who has the Oscar statuette for his work in the film The Life of Pi, was essential to the success of Okja. Although the production director already had a sketch of how the pig would look, Boer was able to add elements of nature to leave Okja, which is a mixture of elephant, hippopotamus and pig, more natural. To begin with, what leaves the relationship between Mija and Okja authentic is the fact that the animal’s skin is so well thought out. Afraid to look plastic, small hairs were added on the skin, with a specific design and an attempt by Boer to give Okja a feminine touch. So when mija touches Okja, we can guess how the girl feels the animal’s skin. This also makes us uneasy when someone hurts the creature.

However, what gave Okja his charisma was his face. Believing that Joon-ho’s sketch left the animal looking like a drawing, the reference of another animal was used: man’s best friend – the dog. No wonder we have identified so much with the hybrid and we hoped it would survive. It is then thanks to our favorite canine that Okja managed to win hearts and become the controversial movie of today.

(article translated from the original version in portuguese, by Google Translate)

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