The launch of the highly anticipated Hollywood movie Barbie has been delayed in Pakistan’s Punjab province over “objectionable content”.
Officials said the film would be reviewed and needed clearance from the provincial boards that censor scenes violating the country’s social, cultural and religious values.
“We will review the film before its release in the country,” Farrukh Mahmood, secretary of the Punjab film censor board, told the Guardian. He did not mention any particular scenes.
The move comes after the release of one of the year’s most talked about films was also postponed by Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt.
Vietnam also banned the film earlier this month over a scene highlighting a map depicting China’s unilateral claim of territory in the South China Sea. The film was originally planned to open in Vietnam on 21 July.
Barbie is played in the Greta Gerwig-directed film by Margot Robbie, with Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend, Ken.
The temporary banning of the movie in Punjab province drew criticism on social media.
“Just heard that Barbie’s banned in Pakistan? I watched [the] movie yesterday. There’s literally nothing in that movie to ban. No swear words. No nudity. No obscenity. Not even any LGTBQ+ characters. Thematically, the film is about women being able to do anything they want, which I guess is a big threat to the fabric of our society,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Pakistan has a history of banning films challenging cultural norms. In November, the conservative Muslim-majority country banned Joyland – a Cannes prize-winning film and Pakistan’s entry for the 2023 Oscars for violating the “norms of decency and morality of the society”.
Joyland featured a Pakistani married man’s affair with a transgender woman. The film was later cleared by the government after a review by the national censorship board, but Joyland remained banned in Punjab, the most populous province.
Legal experts in Pakistan believe the Punjab censor board has continued to pander to rigid religious fanatics.
“This is very similar to the ban against award-winning film Joyland, and is quite arbitrary. It goes against the very freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. The self-proclaimed and self-anointed guardians of public morality who run the Punjab censor board perhaps feel that a film as innocuous as Barbie can shake the beliefs and values of the 100 million people who reside in the country’s largest province,” Osama Malik, a legal attorney told the Guardian.
In 2019, the film Zindagi Tamasha was banned and its director accused of blasphemy – a crime carrying the death sentence – by an ultra-religious party due to the movie’s depiction of a religious man who creates hymns and is caught dancing at a family event.
Source: The Guardian