Bong Joon-Ho, the South Korean director whose film Okja was the subject of much controversy at the Cannes Film Festival last month, has said that he hopes the debate following the film will become a “signal flare” in establishing new rules for similar films.
According to the Yonhap News Agency, Bong told journalists at a press junket in Seoul on Wednesday that he fully understood both sides of the controversy, which has seen South Korea’s three largest exhibitors – CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox – boycott the Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal starrer due to Netflix’s planned day-and-date release on the streaming service.
“I fully understand the multiplexes asking for a minimum three-week hold back,” said Bong. “Netflix’s principle for a simultaneous release should also be respected. The film is, after all, financed by Netflix users and I don’t think we should deprive them of their privileges.”
He added: “I think the problem is that the film arrived before local industries set their rules about this.”
Bong also blamed himself for some of the outcome, saying he had always envisioned Okja, a $50M sci-fi pic backed by Netflix and Plan B– to be viewed on the big screen.
“The controversy was caused due to my cinematic selfishness,” he said. “As a director, it’s natural to have a desire to show the movie both on streaming and movie screens.”
Bong also took a jab at the Cannes Film Festival, saying the festival should have sorted out the rule before inviting the Okja to screen in competition. Last month, French exhibitors were up in arms after the fest selected two Netflix titles (Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories) to screen in competition. The festival abruptly changed its rules saying from 2018 it would exclude films which didn’t have a theatrical commitment. France operates an arcane windows system that dictates that movies must wait three years after their theatrical release before hitting a streaming platform.
“There were two Netflix films at this year’s festival,” said Bong. “We directors are busy people making films. I don’t think we can afford to study France’s domestic laws while making movies.”
Okja is expected to stream live on Netflix on June 29, with a limited theatrical run in the U.S., UK and South Korea.