Cannes: ‘Okja’ Director Bong Joon-ho Dismisses French Controversy Over Netflix

Cannes: ‘Okja’ Director Bong Joon-ho Rebuffs
Courtesy of Netflix

Bong Joon-ho, Korean director of the Cannes Film Festival-bound drama “Okja,” has pushed back at sectors of the French industry that are angry with the selection of two Netflix-backed films in the competition section.

“I don’t take seriously the recent debate” between Cannes, Netflix and French film board CNC, said Bong (“Snowpiercer”). “In the end, physical theaters and digital streaming platforms will co-exist.”

Neither “Okja” nor Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” are on track to receive even limited theatrical releases in France, having been refused temporary exhibition visas by the CNC.

Bong spoke Monday at a presentation in Seoul alongside Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. They confirmed that “Okja” will, in fact, receive theatrical outings in three territories: South Korea, the U.S. and the U.K.

“’Okja’ will receive an unlimited wide release in South Korea on June 29, not just in a few theaters for a limited time,” said Kim Woo-taek, CEO of Korean distributor Next Entertainment World. The film will simultaneously be available on Netflix’s platform in some 190 countries.

Sarandos was at pains to make it clear that Netflix is not against physical cinemas. “I would actually like all our films in theaters,” he said. He said “Okja” would release in selected theaters in the U.S. and U.K. and described the outing in London as a “qualifying run.”

“From the very beginning, Netflix and my team made it clear that ‘Okja’ will screen in big theaters in those three territories, and things are working out as we planned,” said Bong. “I am sure Ted goes to theaters to watch movies with his family, while the members of the CNC surely have Netflix accounts at home.”

Bong also said Netflix had made the film’s production possible. “For me, as a filmmaker, how much creative freedom I am given is much more important than how the film is distributed,” Bong said. “Some companies did not want to invest in ‘Okja,’ because it was too expensive” – the production budget has been estimated at $50 million – “while others turned it down because the film had a bold storyline. Netflix guaranteed both the budget and my complete creative freedom. Whether in America or in France, not many financiers are willing to do that. So I had no reason to hesitate working with them.”

The Seoul event also involved the film’s international producers Jeremy Kleiner, Dooho Choi (“Snowpiercer”,) Seo Woo-sik (“Mother”,) and Lewis Kim (“Snowpiercer”.)

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  1. Alice says:

    Why restrict in this modern age…if you really want to entice audience…you must be willing to show them exactly what they want to watch. Not by over being selective in movies that will shown

  2. Claire says:

    The French cinema industry is failing to move on with technology and, by extension, is failing cinema-goers.
    Going to the nearest decent cinema theatre where I live in rural France entails a 2½-hour car journey. The choice of movies will be severely restricted, and if they are shown, foreign language movies will have been dubbed, with the same unoriginal, boring voices I can recognize by ear from one movie to the next.
    I want to be be able to have a choice of decent movies when I want them, to watch them at home and preferably in their original language version.
    I will not make a 4-hour car trip when all I can choose from is a restricted and uninspiring selection of movies.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      As technology moves forward, or leaves destruction in its path. That’s to be expected. The desire to have what you want, when you want it, is pure human desire.
      If you want to see movie F, you want to see it now, not 3 months later via download. And you don’t want to drive 4 hours to see it. But, that’s your choice. You still have options.
      The only thing they are trying to do is to save the moviegoing theatrical experience. Not everything need n destroyed, just because we can. Look at music. Download and seconds later, You be got your album. But pure music lovers know, the best music experience is vinyl. The resurgence of vinyl is growing every year. Yet, tech all but killed it, giving consumers what they want. No, they gave them no choice.

      • nerdrage says:

        The existence of music on vinyl records does not mean it can’t also be downloaded on iTunes, nor should it. There should be variety for everyone who wants it.

        The Cannes rules would prohibit Netflix from showing movies to French Netflix subscribers for three years. Those subscribers provided the funds that Netflix used to finance the movies. They’ve already paid for the movies. Why should they be prohibited from seeing what they paid to have made, when the rest of the world can see them?

        But the analogy really doesn’t fit with movies because theaters are already highly restricted in what they can show. You can’t go to a movie theater and decide what they will project on the screen for you. Recorded music, even on vinyl, can be reproduced in great quantity and cover a lot more bases.

        Movie theaters are just too limited in the movies they are able to show; there are far more movies made, including worthwhile movies, all the time, than can ever be shown in movie theaters so why should we have to rely on such a limited and hard to access venue for distribution?

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