Several weeks prior to its worldwide release, 'Barbie' faces a plot twist no one predicted - the film is causing geopolitical tensions...
As the cinematic clash of the summer draws closer between Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer - both released on the same day (21 July) - there’s been a plot twist no one saw coming: Barbie is getting banned.
Indeed, screenings of Gerwig’s upcoming movie have been banned in Vietnam due to the inclusion of the “nine dash line map” depicting islands in the South China Sea as being controlled by Beijing. Vietnam's state media have reported that the government banned distribution of Barbie because of the inclusion of the map showing disputed Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The newspaper Vietnam Express and other media said posters advertising Barbie were removed from movie distributors’ websites after the decision.
The reports cited Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department, as saying the National Film Evaluation Council made the decision. It said a map in the film shows China’s “nine-dash line,” which extends Beijing’s territorial claims far into waters that fall within areas claimed by Vietnam and other countries.
An international court ruled in 2016 that the “nine-dash line” has no basis in law and the Philippines was entitled to an exclusive economic zone in part of the area claimed by Beijing. China rejected the ruling.
China says the vast majority of the South China Sea lies within its “nine-dash line,” which it uses to demarcate what it considers its maritime border. That has brought it into tense standoffs with the ASEAN nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, with Chinese fishing boats and military vessels becoming more aggressive in the disputed waters.
Warner Bros' Barbie is not the only production to be banned by Vietnam for featuring the nine-dash line. In 2019, the DreamWorks animated film Abominable was pulled for the same reason, and Sony’s Uncharted also fell foul of the Department of Cinema, the government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films.
The issue now is that more countries could follow suit, as Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan could ban the film, as they all have competing claims in the South China Sea. Malaysia has already ordered the scene to be cut from the movie.
Barbie is released in theatres worldwide (except Vietnam) on 21 July.