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Philippines Will Allow Screenings of Barbie Movie, As Long as Controversial Map With Disputed Lines is Blurred

'Rest assured that the Board has exhausted all possible resources in arriving at this decision,' said the nation's Movie and Television Review and Classification Board

The new Barbie movie will be permitted to screen in the Philippines, provided the American distributor agrees to adjust one scene.

The decision follows international controversy over an abstract map in the film that appears to feature a dashed line used by Chinese authorities to claim dominion over the South China Sea.

The government of Vietnam announced last week that it would not permit any screenings of the movie, which stars Margot Robbie as the titular main character. 

The map at the center of the dispute is a brightly colored “World Map” with inaccurately drawn landmasses resembling the continents. Near the section labeled “Asia,” there is a reversed “S” shaped line of eight dashes, which critics say is the nine-dash line, a “U” shaped demarcation used by Bejing. Dashed lines appear near other continents on the movie’s map. 

China’s claim to the region was ruled baseless by the Hague in 2016 following a legal challenge brought by the Philippines. The Chinese government has, however, ignored the ruling and still marks maps to reflect its claim to roughly 1,200 miles of sea south of mainland China. The area includes islands already claimed by Vietnam and other nations in the region.

Following a review of the case, the Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board will permit the Barbie movie to be screened provided the line is blurred. The board said the line on the “cartoonish map” with “no clear nor outright depiction” of 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 board said in a statement, per AFP.”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.”

Senator Francis Tolentine, who led the campaign to ban the movie, opposed the decision.

Regardless of whether they think this is an eight-, seven-, or nine-dash line, what we see here is China’s continued claims of Philippine waters,” he told local media according to Time.

Warner Bros has denied that the controversial line was intended to make a political statement.

“The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing,” said a spokesperson for the company told Variety. “The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.’” 

The Barbie movie is scheduled to be released in the Philippines on July 19 and in the US on July 21.

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