Bye bye ‘Barbie’: Vietnam bans new movie over South China Sea map

Bye bye ‘Barbie’: Vietnam bans new movie over South China Sea map

Vietnam has banned the upcoming “Barbie” movie from cinemas over scenes with a map showing China’s claims to territory in the South China Sea, state media reported Monday.

The fantasy comedy film about the famous doll, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, had been set for nationwide release in Vietnam on 21 July.

But its performance schedule has been removed from the websites of the country’s major cinema chains following a government decision to ban the film due to scenes featuring the so-called nine-dash line, state media reported.

China has long used its so-called nine-dash line to illustrate its expansive claims over most of the resource-rich sea, often to the displeasure of Hanoi, which also claims parts of the waterway.

“The film review board watched the film and made the decision to ban the screening of this movie in Vietnam due to a violation regarding the ‘nine-dash line’,” Vietnam’s Department of Cinema director, Vi Kien Thanh, told the Dan Tri news site.

Another state media outlet, Tien Phong, reported that the nine-dash line scene appeared multiple times in the movie.

All films in communist Vietnam must be approved by censors who screen for gratuitous violence, suggestive sex scenes, or politically-sensitive material.

Last year, “Uncharted”, the action-and-adventure movie starring Tom Holland, was banned from theatres due to scenes featuring the nine-dash line.

And in 2018, Vietnam cut a scene from the romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” that featured a designer bag with a map of the world showing the disputed South China Sea islands under Beijing’s control.

A year later, Hanoi pulled the animated DreamWorks film “Abominable” from cinemas over the same issue, while Netflix was told last year to ditch episodes of its “Pine Gap” series over similar scenes.

The South China Sea is home to valuable oil and gas deposits and shipping lanes, and several of China’s neighbours have voiced concern that Beijing is seeking to expand its reach.

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