Algeria pulls 'Barbie' movie from cinemas for 'violating morals'

Algeria pulls 'Barbie' movie from cinemas for 'violating morals'
Foreign films are regularly banned in Algeria because of 'non-compliance' with the values of Algerian society but rarely is such a ban done after the start of their screenings.
4 min read
15 August, 2023
"(It was banned) because it promotes homosexuality and other Western deviances that do not comply with Algeria's religious and cultural beliefs,” according to local media Algerie24H. [Getty]

Algeria has reportedly pulled the Barbie movie from national cinemas, joining many countries in the Middle East and North African region in banning the American blockbuster for allegedly "violating morality". 

"(It was banned) because it promotes homosexuality and other Western deviances that do not comply with Algeria's religious and cultural beliefs," according to local media Algerie24H.

After being screened for over three weeks, Algerian authorities have reportedly restricted national cinemas from withdrawing the American movie considered controversial by many politicians across the region. 

Without officially communicating the ban decision, the Barbie film vanished this Sunday, 13 August,  from the schedules of various cinemas around the North African country.

Scheduled for the opening of the new cinemas in the Garden City shopping centre in the capital, the film was discreetly withdrawn from the program.

"We do not censor a film. We let society debate it and go to the theatre to see it or not," Algerian filmmaker Sofia Djama wrote on Facebook in reaction to the news.

Since 19 July, North African states started screening the movie in the original version and the French dubbed one.

Meanwhile, the release of "Barbie" in the Middle East was initially planned for 31 August but was recently brought forward to 10 August, seemingly indicating that any censorship issues had been resolved. 

Films are often delayed in the region to allow time for production companies to censor them or gather committees to review them. 

Kuwait has already banned "Barbie" outright, saying that the film promotes "ideas and beliefs that are alien to Kuwaiti society and public order." Meanwhile, Lebanese officials are in back-to-back meetings to decide on the movie ban.

However, Algeria is the only North African country to initiate a ban against Greta Gerwig's film, which passed the billion-dollar mark at the global box office on 21 July.  

Gerwig's comedy portrays a world run by women, reversing the roles of a patriarchal society. And it concludes with an egalitarian message: embrace the individuals as they are because everyone is "Ken-ough."

Although the cast of "Barbie" includes Kate McKinnon, who is queer, and transgender actor Hari Nef, the movie does not contain any explicit references to homosexuality or transsexuality.

Live Story

"They did not watch the movie"

Amna, an Algerian mother of a ten-year-old girl, assumes that authorities did not watch the movie because "there's nothing controversial or radical in Barbie."

Amna said she watched the movie with her daughter on the release day with several friends and colleagues. "For me, it was merely feminism 101. But for my daughter, it did introduce her to new terms that I would struggle to explain to her without Margot Robbie's talent," Amna told TNA.

In Algeria, like other countries, Barbie's screening day turned into a social event where dolled-up crowds head in large numbers to the national theatres - an unprecedented scene in Algeria where many theatres had to close in the past years facing the lack of attendees and the pandemic's effects. 

"We are actually grateful for this movie. I didn't see a full theatre and long queues outside in years," a manager in a cinema in Algiers said to TNA.

Live Story

'A distraction from the political crisis'

Foreign films are regularly banned in Algeria because of "non-compliance with the values" of Algerian society, but rarely after the start of their screenings.

Algeria's political elite has been heavily targetting the LGBTQ+ community, administrating bans on anything merely colourful, including Quran copies.

In January, Algeria's commerce minister announced a ban on all rainbow-coloured products in the country's markets, launching a nationwide seizing campaign of "rainbow products."

Many Algerians see the state's beef with Barbie and rainbows are "cheap distractions" from the country's political and economic crisis and an extension of the government's vigorous censorship.

"No Algerian goes worrying about Barbie and rainbows," Karim, a 40-year-old Algerian teacher, told TNA

"Instead, we are worried about the cost of life and those young people who go daily to jail over a Facebook post," he added.