Will 'Barbie' movie be banned in Philippines? Here's why the film is being reviewed

A number of officials, including senators, have spoken about their stand on the issue — calling for a ban or, at a minimum, an 'explicit disclaimer' on a sensitive topic feature on the film

by

Kirstin Bernabe

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Australian actress Margot Robbie poses for a photo during a pink carpet event to promote her new film 'Barbie' in Seoul on July 2. — AFP
Australian actress Margot Robbie poses for a photo during a pink carpet event to promote her new film 'Barbie' in Seoul on July 2. — AFP

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 5:34 PM

Scores of Barbie fans around the world have long been waiting for the first-ever live-action film featuring their treasured doll — and it will finally be out in a few weeks. Those in the Philippines, however, might not see it on the big screen, if an ongoing review doesn't go in their favour.

The Philippines' Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has issued a statement a committee is now "deliberating" whether the 'Barbie' movie — starring Margot Robbie — will be allowed for commercial release, according to local reports.

“We confirm that the Board has reviewed the film 'Barbie' today, July, 4, 2023. At this time, the assigned Committee on First Review is deliberating on the request of Warner Brothers F.E. Inc. for a Permit to Exhibit,” the MTRCB said on Tuesday.

The Philippine review comes shortly after Vietnam announced a ban on the distribution of the movie because of a scene that includes a view of a map showing disputed Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

A map shown in the movie features China’s “nine-dash line" — which extends Beijing’s territorial claims far into waters that fall within areas claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries.

A UN-backed international court ruled in 2016 that the “nine-dash line” has no basis in law and the Philippines was entitled to an exclusive economic zone in part of the area claimed by Beijing. However, China rejected the ruling.

The matter has remained a sensitive issue for the Philippines and China.

Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros was quick to respond to the issue, saying: "The movie Barbie is fiction, and so is the nine-dash line."

At the minimum, she added, Philippine cinemas "should include an explicit disclaimer that the nine-dash line is a figment of China’s imagination".

A number of other officials, including Senator Francis Tolentino, are in favour of a ban. Tolentino said the nine-dash line “denigrates Philippine sovereignty”, according to local reports.

In 2022, a videogame movie starring Tom Holland was withdrawn from Philippine cinemas because of a scene that showed the same map depicting China's nine-dash line.

Representatives of Warner Bros Philippines, however, said the film is still scheduled for a July 19 release, according to local media reports.

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