• Reasons for ‘Barbie’ film ban in Vietnam
  • Vietnam bans movie ‘Barbie’ over ‘nine-dash line’
  • Controversy surrounding ‘Barbie’ film and China’s claims in South China Sea
  • Previous film bans in Vietnam related to China’s ‘nine-dash line’
  • Impact of ‘Barbie’ film ban on movie distribution in Vietnam

“Barbie” is banned in Vietnam: why the film’s distribution was restricted

This is not the first time productions have been banned in the Asian country, as it has previously withdrawn titles such as “An Abominable Friend” and “Uncharted: Off the Map” for a similar reason

Barbie, the Warner Bros. film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling and one of the most anticipated films of the summer, is scheduled for worldwide release on July 21. However, it has been announced that the feature film will not reach all corners of the world, one of the places where it will not be screened will be Vietnam.

According to that country’s state media, the Greta Gerwig-directed film has been banned from distribution in its territory because of a scene showing a map depicting territory unilaterally claimed by China in the South China Sea. The controversial “nine-dash line” is used on maps to illustrate its claims to these vast areas, including areas that it considers part of its continental shelf and where it has granted oil concessions.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that no license was granted for the screening of the highly anticipated title because of the offensive “nine-dash line” imagery, citing Vi Kien Thanh, head of Vietnam’s film department, the agency in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films. “We do not grant license for the U.S. film Barbie to be released in Vietnam because it contains the offensive image of the nine-dash line,” the report maintained.

Vietnam and China have had overlapping territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a region potentially rich in energy resources. The Southeast Asian country has repeatedly accused Chinese ships of violating its sovereignty in this area. So far, Warner Bros. has not commented on the ban.

Not the first case of a ban in Vietnam

This is not the first time a film has been banned in Vietnam for showing China’s controversial “nine-dash line.” In 2019, the Vietnamese government withdrew DreamWorks’ animated film An Abominable Friend. At the time, distributor CGV was fined for screening it and Vietnam Film Department staff were disciplined for not immediately spotting the offending images. It was withdrawn from theatrical release after just over a week in theaters.

Last year, it banned Sony’s action film Uncharted: Off the Map for the same reason. In addition, Netflix removed Australian spy drama Pine Gap in 2021. Likewise, in 2020, the series Put Your Head On My Shoulder and Madam Secretary were told to remove scenes containing the map.

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