‘Barbie’ to Be Released in Philippines Cinemas, But Map Scene May Be Blurred
Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has been allowed a commercial release in the Philippines, following a review by the country’s film censors. However, the scene that shows a controversial map may have to be blurred.
The film was last week banned in Vietnam over its inclusion of a scene with a map alleged to show the ‘nine dash line’ by which China lays claim to nearly all of the South China Sea as its own territory. Vietnam says that China’s claims violate its sovereignty and that films and TV shows must not show the illegal map. On Monday, Vietnam banned Chinese series “Flight to You” for showing the map in multiple episodes.
On Tuesday last week, the Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) said that it would look into “Barbie,” noting similar concerns.
Distributor Warner Bros. denied that the map shown in the film showed the controversial ‘nine dash line.’ “The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing. The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.’ It was not intended to make any type of statement,” a spokesperson for the Warner Bros. Film Group told Variety last week.
The MTRCB statement aligns itself with that point of view. “Considering the context by which the cartoonish map of the character ‘Weird Barbie’ was portrayed in the film, the Review Committee is convinced that the contentious scene does not depict the ‘nine-dash line.’ Instead, the map portrayed the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world,’ as an integral part of the story,” the MTRCB said in a statement.
In a letter sent to Philippines Senator Francis Tolentino, reported by local media, it added: “The Board believes that all things considered, it has no basis to ban the film ‘Barbie’ as there is no clear nor outright depiction of the nine-dash line in the subject film.”
The MTRCB has not updated its own web site with a fresh statement since announcing the July 4 review. However, it emailed a new statement to Variety. In a list of recent classifications, “Barbie” is shown to have been granted a “PG” certificate, meaning that viewers below 13 years old must be accompanied by a parent or supervising adult.
The MTRCB said that the movie “underwent two meticulous screenings.” One of these involved the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Solicitor General.
Philippines media also reports that the censors have asked Warner Bros. to blur the controversial lines on the map, though this is not mentioned in the MTRCB statement (see below).
In 2016, a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) disputes resolution tribunal in The Hague ruled unanimously against the validity of the ‘nine dash line.’ However, while the South China Sea Arbitration decision is final and binding there are no clear mechanisms for its implementation. China has said it does not recognize the tribunal decision.
Here’s the full MTRCB statement:
“Having conducted two review sessions, thorough deliberations, and consultations with relevant government agencies, including a legal expert on the West Philippine Sea, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has given the film ‘Barbie’ a Parental Guidance (‘PG’) rating, which means viewers below thirteen (13) years old must be accompanied by a parent or supervising adult.
“Considering the context by which the cartoonish map of the character ‘Weird Barbie’ was portrayed in the film, the Review Committee is convinced that the contentious scene does not depict the ‘nine-dash line.’ Instead, the map portrayed the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world, as an integral part of the story.
“Rest assured that the Board has exhausted all possible resources in arriving at this decision as we have not hesitated in the past to sanction filmmakers/ producers/distributors for exhibiting the fictitious ‘nine-dash line’ in their materials.
“The Board sternly warns all filmmakers, producers, and distributors that it will not hesitate to sanction and/or ban films that exhibit the ‘nine-dash line’ for being contrary to law, pursuant to Section 3(c)(d) of Presidential Decree No. 1986, the Republic Act No. 9522, otherwise known as the Philippine Baselines Law, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s South China Sea Arbitration Award, whose anniversary we, as a nation, are celebrating today.”
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