Nearly a month after its initial release in Algeria, the Barbie film has been removed from cinemas across the nation. Reports from the online news platform, 24H Algerie, highlight that Algeria’s Ministry of Culture and Arts issued an urgent directive to cinemas in major cities such as Algiers, Oran, and Constantine to immediately cease the film’s screening.
To date, neither the ministry nor the Algerian Audiovisual Regulatory Authority has provided an explanation for this sudden directive or made any comment.
Following its release in select Algerian theatres last month, film distributors initiated the removal of the Hollywood blockbuster from their weekly schedules. This move mirrors decisions made by authorities in Kuwait and Lebanon, where the film was banned due to its commentary on gender and sexuality.
The abrupt cancellation has prompted a flurry of discussions on social media. Supporters voiced their frustration using the hashtag “#IAmBarbie”, with others condemning the act as an instance of “censorship” and “bigotry”. Leila Belkacem, a prominent writer, expressed her discontent on Facebook, questioning the motives behind the censorship given the private behaviours of some officials.
Fatima Ait Kaci, who had anticipated watching the film with her granddaughters visiting from Canada, expressed her dismay upon discovering the change in schedule at the Riadh El Feth cinema in Algiers. She criticised Algerian authorities for their lack of transparency and responsibility.
This incident follows the recent suspension of programming by the private TV channel Es Salam, accused of broadcasting content contrary to Islamic principles and Algerian societal norms.
Directed by the acclaimed Greta Gerwig, the film stars Margot Robbie, portraying the iconic Barbie, and Ryan Gosling as her partner, Ken. While the film does not include explicit sexual scenes or direct references to LGBTQ+ rights, it has faced criticism due to its vibrant representation and overarching message of gender equality and inclusion. This theme is particularly controversial in areas where same-sex relationships are prohibited by law.
Despite the regional controversies, the Warner Bros production has achieved significant success, grossing over $1bn globally. This outstanding performance has positioned it as the top-grossing film directed by a woman in cinematic history.