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By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) — South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho on Wednesday threw a jab at the organizers of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, saying that it should have fixed its rules regarding streaming-only films before inviting his Netflix-produced movie “Okja.”
“It would have been preferable if the Cannes festival would have put the rules in order before inviting us. Inviting us and creating a controversy, what an embarrassment,” Bong told reporters at a media event for “Okja” in Seoul.
The Netflix film about the friendship between a genetically modified “super pig” and a farm girl was among 18 titles chosen for the main competition lineup for the 70th edition of the festival last month.
Cannes changed its rules to exclude films without a commitment for a French theatrical release from next year, facing strong protest from the local film industry against the Netflix movie’s advance to the Cannes’ competition category.
“There were two Netflix films at this year’s festival. We directors are busy people producing films. I don’t think we can afford to study France’s domestic laws while making movies,” Bong said.
Co-written by Bong and Jon Ronson of “Frank,” Okja follows a girl from a rural town who risks everything to prevent a multinational company from kidnapping her close friend and super pig named Okja.
The sci-fi film was co-produced by three Hollywood studios — Plan B, Lewis Pictures and Kate Street Picture Company — while Netflix covered the film’s entire budget of US$50 million.
It stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal of “Nightcrawler” and “Everest,” and Paul Dano of “Love & Mercy” and “12 Years a Slave,” and has Korean actors such as An Seo-hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Choi Woo-shik and Yoon Je-moon among its cast.
The film isn’t without controversy at home though. Simultaneously with its June 28 release on Netflix, the U.S. streaming giant promised that it will make the movie available at South Korean theaters as well. But the country’s three major multiplexes — CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox — are refusing to show the film unless guaranteed a minimum three-week holdback on streaming.
So far the film has secured about 70 independent cinemas for its theatrical showing.
“The controversy was caused due to my cinematic selfishness. I am the one who provided the cause,” Bong said, explaining that he envisioned the movie being shown on the big screen, alongside being released on Netflix.
Bong said he fully understands both sides of the row and expressed hope that “Okja” would become a “signal flare” in establishing new rules relating to similarly produced films.
“I fully understand the multiplexes asking for a minimum three-week hold back. Netflix’s principle for a simultaneous release should also be respected.”