Vietnam bans 'Barbie' film because of South China Sea map

Tuesday, 4 July 2023 (11:04 IST)
Vietnamese officials told state media on Monday that they would ban the upcoming "Barbie" fantasy comedy movie, the first film stemming from the famous doll franchise that will involve real actors. 
Scenes showing a map with China's disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, known as the "nine-dash line" because China uses nine dashes to demarcate the area it claims on a map, were the reason given for the state censors' decision. 
What did Vietnamese officials say?
"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 appeared multiple times in the movie. 
What is the nine-dash line? 
China has long used the nine-dash line to illustrate its claims over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, which stretches far further than the standard 200-mile (roughly 320-kilometer) exclusive economic exclusion zone from the coastline that applies in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China is a UNCLOS signatory but rejects some of the accord's provisions. 
The Chinese line brushes up close to the coastline of several Asian countries including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. China bases this on its claim to the series of disputed islands roughly in the center of the sea. 
'Uncharted' movie met same fate last year
Vietnamese censors must approve all movies for screening, with reasons to restrict them including gratuitous violence, suggestive sex scenes and politically-sensitive material. 
Last year, the "Uncharted" action-and-adventure Hollywood movie stemming from a computer game franchise of the same name, was banned in Vietnam for exactly the same reason — it included scenes showing the nine-dash line. 
The theme of that movie, following an international historical treasure hunter, is slightly easier to reconcile with depictions of far-flung political maps. 
In the case of "Barbie," hitting movie theaters in most countries on or around July 21, it's not entirely clear how the map fits into the plot. 
The fantasy comedy is billed as having a somewhat more serious story that one might assume, however. It's said to depict Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) starting off in a largely perfect and fictitious world, akin to the doll's more old-fashioned universe, only to then return with a bump to a closer facsimile of real life. 
The Chinese cinema market is the second-largest in the world and briefly laid claim to the top spot in 2020 amid the COVID pandemic. Hollywood filmmakers, therefore, have famously become increasingly preoccupied with ensuring their films are well received by the censors in Beijing in recent years.

(Photo: Warner Bros)

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