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Cannes projection team booed at Okja première

At the end of the commotion, which included a technical hitch that halted screening for a few minutes, the film got good reviews

May 19, 2017 09:33 pm | Updated May 22, 2017 04:23 pm IST - Cannes

 (L-R) Director Bong Joon-Ho, Actors Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-Hyun and Jake Gyllenhaal attend the "Okja" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2017 in Cannes, France.

(L-R) Director Bong Joon-Ho, Actors Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-Hyun and Jake Gyllenhaal attend the "Okja" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2017 in Cannes, France.

It hasn’t quite been a smooth debut for Netflix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The federation of French theatre owners had been protesting against the fact that the two Netflix films — Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories — that are competing for the Palme d’Or wouldn’t be released in local theatres but straightaway streamed online.

It made the festival declare that it would change its rules to make all future competition films commit to theatrical distribution in France.

On Friday, a projection glitch occurred a few minutes into the première of the much anticipated Okja. As the charged audience booed and hooted against the faulty aspect ratio, the film had to be stopped and restarted.

But things ended happily with the film proving to be quite an audience darling. Okja starts off with Mirando Corporation in New York unveiling its plan to rear 26 ‘super piglets’ in its different partner countries. All in an attempt to build a new livestock species over ten years to solve the world’s food problem.

An emotional turn

In Korea, their best laid plans take an unexpected emotional turn. A simple tale of the unfathomable love between a child and her pet, a futuristic allegory about unethical livestock farming and engineered genetic mutations, a dark satire that throws darts at both animal rights activists and meat eaters, Okja is all this and more.

Yes, it is over the top in its caricatures, there is good sprinkling of scatological humour, and it has a predictable pattern in its relationship explorations.

But ultimately nothing is sacrosanct in its outrageous, crazy world. The nostalgia for the old, more organic ways of life in the mountains of Korea gets nicely offset by the young village resident’s curiosity for “retina display”. Fun is poked at the sanctimony of an animal rights guy who wants to leave the smallest footprint on the planet and thinks “all food production is exploitative”. Yet the film also left a few of the meat-eating friends, who are also animal lovers, more than a little conflicted. An inverse of sorts then of the Malayalam film, Angamaly Diaries, that celebrated meat in all its glory.

Rahman’s day out

If I were to borrow the hashtag vocabulary then #TIL, aka today I learnt, that a globe-trotter like A.R. Rahman has never been to Cannes before. “I have been to Nice and Monaco, have been called three-four times by the festival but was somehow never able to make it,” he said in a short informal chat at the Majestic Beach in Cannes. He made a quick trip to Cannes from the U.S. to launch the mega budget Tamil film Sangamithra , for which he is music composer .

It’s also the first Cannes outing for Sangamithra ’s protagonist, actor Shruti Haasan.

Two days at the festival and she says she hasn’t been able to watch any films: “It’s been all about dressing up, putting on make-up, talking about the film and then again dressing up, putting on make-up and talking about the film.” Haasan is at Cannes till Monday and does hope to catch a film or two.

Both consider Cannes an important platform on which to have placed their film. “It’s a good sign,” says the actor. For Rahman, the film is based on a universal subject, how it comes together will be important.

The reason he came on board for it was because he was “mesmerised by the vision”. “Its trajectory is very interesting. It’s engaging. There is grandness yet warmth to it,” he says, “Any film that is rooted in its culture has a charm of its own.” But music composition for it hasn’t quite started.

“I don’t know what I am going to do. It could come to me on the plane. But if it comes to me straight and simple, I tend to reject it,” he says.

For now it’s his 55-minute VR feature film that’s occupying all the mind space. Is VR the future? “Billions of dollars are being pumped into it. Even if it’s not [the future], it is interesting,” says the composer.

With VR as the focus of NEXT, the innovation hub of Marche du Cinema, Cannes seems to agree with Rahman.

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