ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — The “Barbie” movie was pulled from theaters in Algeria this week almost one month after its release in the North African country.
Online news outlet 24H Algerie said Algeria’s Ministry of Culture and Arts notified cinemas in Algiers, Oran and Constantine to “immediately” pull the movie.
Neither the ministry nor the Algerian Audiovisual Regulatory Authority commented on the reported directive or provided a rationale for it.
“Barbie” opened in some some Algerian cinemas last month. The film’s distributors removed the Hollywood blockbuster from their screening schedules starting this week..
The move comes after authorities in Kuwait and Lebanon banned the live action movie based on the American fashion dolls for allegedly threatening conservative values.
Some people in Algeria protested the cancellation on social media, posting their complaints along with the hashtag “#IAmBarbie.” Others denounced it as “censorship” and “bigotry.”
“The ‘Barbie’ film ‘is a threat to morality,’ they say,” writer Leila Belkacem posted on her Facebook page. “What morality are they talking about when the censors gorge on porn films at home? Aren’t you tired of dragging the country into your dark delusions?”
Fatima Ait Kaci, a retired teacher, told The Associated Press she had promised to take her two granddaughters, who were visiting from Canada, to see the movie. Ait Kaci said she heard what had happened to “Barbie” only when they arrived at the Riadh El Feth cinema in Algiers and discovered another film showing in the 3 p.m.-5 p.m. time slot.
Algerian authorities “don’t have the courage to take responsibility for this shameful act of censorship,” she said.
Last week, the Audiovisual Regulatory Authority announced its decision to “temporarily” suspend all programming by private TV channel Es Salam for allegedly broadcasting “in an irresponsible and unprofessional manner, a program containing scenes contrary to the precepts of Islam and the way of life of Algerian society.”
“Barbie” contains no overt sexuality or references to LGBTQ+ rights. But it seems to have drawn fire because of its sheer flamboyance and broad message of inclusion and gender equality in a region where homosexuality is widely seen as taboo.
The Warner Bros. film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide since its release.