Okja, the monumental original Netflix film about a young Korean girl, her magic super-pig best friend and an evil corporation that has sparked controversy at Cannes, just might be the most exciting release of the year so far. Okja uses the narrative of an exhilarating sci-fi fantasy to ask serious questions about the brutal realities of the meat industry and the sugar-coated corporate greed surrounding it. But the success of the film, and arguably the reason why it’s winning on so many levels, comes from its phenomenal range of diversity; cultural and gender diversity, diversity of talent and diversity of experience.
The most obvious embodiment of diversity in this production is found in its cultural and gender representation. The film is undeniably international, with Joon-ho Bong leading an international crew and Ahn Seo-hyun, a young female Korean actor, leading a cast of Korean, English and American actors. The whole production spans continents and languages, mixing Korean and English to create a surprisingly convincing story. And it’s no wonder the film has been such a success – a recent study by The Creative Artists Agency shows that films made up of more diverse casts lead to better box office success – proving that diversity pays.
Smashing gender stereotypes, we are met with a female protagonist, Mija, who is smart, resourceful and fearless, who despite not speaking English, travels across the world to New York, stopping at nothing to rescue her companion. The frustratingly predictable heroine of planet Hollywood who faints at the drop of a hat, flaunts her sexuality as a form of power, and relies on the abilities of men to save the day, is left where she belongs – in the past. Ahn Seo-hyun brings to life the reviving female role model that the next generation of girls deserve to look up to. And this representation is equally important in the workplace, recent McKinsey research found that companies with good gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform others.
The mix of cultures brings a welcome diversity of talent and experience; Bong uses the utterly raw emotion of Korean cinema to highlight the disturbing practices of factory farming, and blends it with the candyfloss exhibitionism of American capitalism in such a startling and horrific manner that it makes you nauseous at times. It certainly fulfils its objective of making people think; a great feat in the face of modern culture’s attention span crisis. The University of Melbourne found that a big factor hindering innovation is the lack of talent diversity across businesses – demonstrating how a mix of talents is fundamental to success.
Okja proves that diversity makes for great storytelling. The variety of experience that contributed to the production is what’s made it such an exhilarating, emotive and original tale. Diversity of experience shouldn’t be confined to the realm of storytelling; as organisations, we should be looking for people with different experiences, different opinions, different educational levels and different talents because they enrich our world view and allow us to grow and productively challenge each other. Our client Blueprint for a Better Business’ framework to guide decision making recommends “favouring curiosity and inclusion over suspicion and exclusion of those who think differently,” which is backed up by Harvard Business Review research that shows companies with good “2D diversity” (inherent and acquired diversity) are better at innovating and are 45% more likely to report growth in market share than others. It’s refreshing to work in a team at Kin&Co that recognises that every single voice involved brings a different point of view and their own unique value and it is clear, from Okja and beyond, that diversity wins.