The screening of Greta Gerwig’s much-awaited film, Barbie, was halted in Punjab, Pakistan, despite receiving clearance from the Punjab Film Censor Board (PFCB). The PFCB, a wing of the Department of Information and Culture, had initially approved the film’s release across the province on July 20. However, the Punjab government intervened a day later, stopping the film’s screening.
The controversy began when rumors circulated that the film had been banned due to “objectionable content”. This led to public outcry, particularly among Punjabis, who were eagerly awaiting the film’s release. A Twitter user voiced their disappointment, stating that people were waiting for Barbie, but the Punjab Censor Board had banned it. In response, a verified source clarified that the PFCB had only withheld the film’s NOC until the said “objectionable” content was removed.
Two members of the PFCB, Muhammad Haseeb and Rehan Shahzad, confirmed that they had issued a “censor certificate” to the Hollywood production after minor modifications. However, on July 22, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Culture ordered the film’s screening to be stopped.
Punjab’s Caretaker Information and Culture Minister, Aamir Mir, confirmed that the provincial government had reservations about the film’s content, specifically its depiction of “homosexuality”. He stated that the film would undergo a review and, following necessary censorship of certain dialogues, it would be released in a day or two.
Despite the controversy in Punjab, Barbie has been released in the rest of the country and cleared for screening in Sindh and Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. This incident highlights the tension between the censor board’s decisions and the government’s intervention, raising questions about the autonomy of such regulatory bodies.