Russia has banned ‘Barbie’. So their theaters are secretly showing it as if it were a Russian documentary

It has been one of the undisputed box office phenomena of this summer… and of the year. ‘ Barbie ‘, the unique live-action version of Mattel’s toy franchise, is already the highest-grossing film of 2023 , and it is unlikely that any other release will take the mark from it. However, its openly feminist approach has earned it some criticism from the more conservative faction of cinephilia. And also from the Russian government.

When the conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke out , many Hollywood studios stopped distributing their films in the former country. However, viewers want to continue consuming American films, and many theaters are fulfilling their wishes by showing them illegally. It is a phenomenon that has been happening since last year, with unauthorized copies of hits like ‘ The Batman’ or ‘ Red ‘.

The trick that the theaters are pulling with ‘Barbie’, as reported by media such as the BBC and The New York Times , is to falsify the content of the projections. Cinemas announce sessions dedicated to Russian short films and documentaries , in which they include a preview of the Greta Gerwig film, which they actually then show in full or even dubbed into Russian. At least 14 cinemas have been counted that would be carrying out this strategy.

This strategy is far from being a form of political protest: it is rather a mere form of survival. The Minister of Culture himself even declared himself against the Kremlin’s ban on showing North American films as a response to Hollywood. 70% of Russian film exhibition is fed by that cinema, and consequently, as reported by the Russian Cinema Association , income fell by 44% last year. They even asked the Kremlin in writing to be allowed to show some of the year’s biggest Hollywood hits to cushion the losses.

The Ministry of Culture, however, and despite its request that the ban be total, has vetoed ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’, last year’s box office phenomenon . They say that they “do not meet the goals and objectives set by the head of state to preserve and reinforce traditional Russian spiritual and moral values.” What are those values? Among others, and always according to the Ministry, traditionalism, heroism in the war against Ukraine and showing the degradation of Europe.

This situation has led to the six-minute Russian short ‘Three Good Deeds’ generating ten million dollars at the box office since it was released in January. Of course, before him, in his screenings, copies of ‘ Avatar: The Sense of Water’ , ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ have been projected. Hollywood always finds a way.

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