Vietnam bans ‘Barbie’ movie over South China Sea map

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has banned domestic distribution of Warner Bros.’s highly anticipated film ‘Barbie’ over a scene with a map showing China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea, state media reported on Monday.

The U-shaped “nine-dash line” is used on Chinese maps to show its claims over large areas of the South China Sea, including parts of what Vietnam considers its continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.

Barbie is the latest film to be banned in Vietnam for showing China’s controversial Nine-Dash Line, which was rejected in an international arbitration award by a court in The Hague in 2016. China refuses to recognize the verdict.

Actress Margot Robbie is photographed during a photocall for the upcoming Warner Bros. film "Barbie" In Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 25, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Actress Margot Robbie is photographed during a photo shoot for the upcoming Warner Bros. film “Barbie” in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 25, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake

In 2019, the Vietnamese government withdrew DreamWorks’ animated film Abominable and last year banned Sony’s action film Unchartered for the same reason. Netflix also removed Australian spy drama Pine Gap in 2021.

According to state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre, “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, was originally set to hit theaters in Vietnam on July 21, the same date as in the US.

“We do not grant a license for the release of the American film ‘Barbie’ in Vietnam because it contains the offensive image of the nine-dash line,” the newspaper reported, citing Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema, a government agency for licensing and censorship of foreign films.

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vietnam and China have long-overlapping territorial claims to a potentially energy-rich stretch of the South China Sea. The Southeast Asian country has repeatedly accused Chinese ships of violating its sovereignty.

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