If you’ve had a chance to catch the Friends reunion, which is currently streaming on HBO Max, you’ll have already discovered that Saratoga Living‘s 2020 Design issue cover co-star, Kevin Bright, who served as executive producer (and part-time director) for the hit NBC sitcom for its entire 10-season run, makes more than a few appearances in the special. (His co–cover star and wife, Claudia Wilsey Bright, appears for a few seconds, too.) There are also a ton of great guest star cameos, the cast does some hilarious table reads, and Late Late Show host James Corden hosts a segment, during which a “live” studio audience asks the original cast, all of whom showed up for the event, questions about their time on the series.
Of course, Bright returned to executive produce the reunion special, and though filming was delayed for about a year due to the pandemic, it got underway this past March and was released on HBO Max about two months later on May 27. As expected, it’s seen a huge audience right out of the gate, having been watched by 29 percent of streaming households in the US on its first day alone, per TVision. Since last year, that ranks second only on the streaming service to Wonder Woman 1984, per Variety. Viewers across the Atlantic also ate it up, making it the most-watched show ever on the Sky One network.
It may surprise fans to learn, then, that Bright has followed up the jovial reunion special with the release of a hyper-serious and -personal (and decidedly controversial) documentary, entitled Nureongi, which he says he shot with a South Korean audience in mind, to shine a light on the Asian country’s dogmeat industry and its inhumane treatment of dogs. (The term “Nureongi,” which refers to the common yellow breed of Korean dog used in the industry, roughly translates to “meat dog” and “shit dog” in Korean.)
For the uninitiated, in South Korea, farming dogs for their meat is still an accepted practice, and dogmeat (or “Bosintang”) is popular in some circles for its supposed medicinal qualities. South Koreans tend to eat its meat most during the summer months, especially at Boknal, a three-day festival that takes place this year in late July and early August.
Author’s note: There are a number of extremely difficult-to-watch moments in the film, so if you are a dog lover or are particularly squeamish, think twice before clicking on the video below.
Bright released the documentary, which is a little over an hour long, on YouTube for free, and it’s in Korean, though English-speaking viewers can turn on English subtitles and follow along. “I want the world to see it,” says Bright, “but mainly, I want everybody in Korea to see it.”
Despite the film’s sensitive topic and multiple hard-to-stomach moments, Bright says that he feels that Nureongi is the first such documentary “not to be made from a pejorative, judgmental point of view,” adding: “There’s so much information the Koreans don’t know about their own country. This trade is shrouded in a lot of confusion, old wive’s tales, myths and legends, but over two-thirds of the country does not eat [dogmeat], and one-third of the country is strongly for getting rid of it.”
The Brights are longtime dog advocates, with Claudia first leading the charge by cofounding the nonprofit organization, Dogs of Violence Exposed (DoVE) Project, which is focused on putting an end to the Korean dogmeat trade through education and advocacy in South Korea. (Her cofounder, Tami Cho Zussman, plays a prominent role in the film.) Kevin says it was Claudia who helped get him involved in the cause, bringing him on one of the organization’s regular trips to Korea to save dogs. The couple has since brought some 800 dogs back to the US and found them forever homes, and they have their own pair of South Korean rescues, Hope and Oscar.