Authorities in Vietnam have banned commercial screenings of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.”
The Warner Bros. film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, was set to have been released in the country on July 21.
The film contains a scene that depicts a map with the “nine dash line,” a representation of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Vietnam says violates its sovereignty.
Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, said on Monday that the ban was decided by the National Film Evaluation Council.
Warner Bros. has not responded to Variety’s requests for comment.
Many of China’s neighbors, including Vietnam, have competing and overlapping territorial claims and strongly dispute China’s assertions. In 2016, a United Nations disputes resolution tribunal in The Hague ruled unanimously against the validity of the ‘nine dash line.’ However, while the South China Sea arbitration was final and binding, there are no clear mechanisms for its implementation and China has said it does not recognize the decision.
“We do not grant license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line,” said the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper, also citing Vi Kien Thanh.
Similar depictions of the “nine dash line” have previously caused problems for multiple films and TV series in Vietnam.
DreamWorks’ animated film “Abominable” was banned for the same reason in 2019 and Sony’s “Unchartered” suffered the same fate last year. Exhibitor CGV was fined for showing “Abominable,” and staff at the Vietnam Cinema Department were disciplined for not immediately spotting the offending images. The film was pulled after just over a week in cinemas.
In 2020, the series “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” and “Madam Secretary” were told to delete scenes containing the map. Meanwhile, in 2021, Netflix was ordered to removed Australian spy drama “Pine Gap” from the Vietnamese market.