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Falls PR doesn’t go with the flow

From the Associated Press

The Bush administration appears to have annexed a major Canadian landmark as part of a new campaign to promote U.S. tourism and welcome foreign visitors to America.

A Disney-produced promotional video released last week by the departments of State and Homeland Security highlights majestic American landscapes, from New England’s colorful fall foliage and the Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains and Hawaii’s pounding surf.

Backed by a soaring orchestral soundtrack, shots of those attractions are interspersed with the smiling images of people of all creeds and colors. The video, “Welcome: Portraits of America,” is to be played at select airports in the United States -- starting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston -- and at U.S. embassies abroad.

About four minutes into the seven-minute production, viewers are treated to the impressive sight and sound of water roaring over Niagara Falls before the screen shifts to the Lincoln Memorial. Disney’s filmmakers, however, chose the Horseshoe Falls, the only one of Niagara’s three waterfalls that is almost entirely on the Canadian side of the border.

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A visitor to the United States would not even be able to get the same view of the falls in the video, because the scene was shot from a vantage point in Canada, according to Paul Gromosiak, a Niagara Falls, N.Y., historian and author. He said the video leaves out the two cascades that actually are on U.S. territory, the American and Bridal Veil falls.

“This is not the United States; this is 100% Canada, shot from the Canadian side,” Gromosiak said. “This is an insult.”

The State Department and Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection agency endorsed the video and put it on their websites.

In a separate “making of” video, Jay Rasulo, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, speaks over the falls footage about the importance of showing would-be tourists “the great sites, the great vistas that they dream about all their lives when they dream about America.”

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Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said in a posting to the department’s blog that the production had the administration’s blessing. Hughes said that she commissioned the work to overcome a post-Sept. 11 perception abroad that America was hostile to foreigners. She said the video was to be given maximum exposure.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Niagara Falls “is a shared natural wonder, a gateway for both our countries.”


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