Oh, Canada! The USA is closer than ever. The Bush
administration appears to have annexed a major Canadian landmark as
part of a slick 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
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.
In showing the natural wonder, Disney's filmmakers, however, chose the
Horseshoe Falls, the only one of Niagara's three waterfalls to lie
almost entirely on the Canadian side of the border separating western
New York state from southern Ontario province.
Making matters worse, a visitor to the U.S. 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.
Also, he said the video leaves out the two cascades that actually are
on U.S. territory, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
''This is not the United States, this is 100 percent Canada, shot from
the Canadian side,'' Gromosiak said after reviewing the video at the
request of The Associated Press. ''This is an insult.''
Although brief, the appearance of the Horseshoe Falls in a U.S.
tourism promotion effort is likely to also vex Canadians, who long
have fought to distinguish themselves from their larger and more
powerful neighbor to the South.
The political boundary is not marked with a line through the Niagara
River that divides the two countries and connects Lake Erie to Lake
Ontario. The distinction, however, is clear to most who have visited
the Falls looking for a picture postcard photo to take home.
But it seems to have escaped the notice of the producers and those at
the State Department and Homeland Security Department's Customs and
Border Protection agency who presumably vetted the video before
endorsing it and posting it to their Web sites.
In a separate ''making of'' video, Jay Rasulo, the 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.''
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack could not speak to the
scenery in the short film. But he stressed that Niagara Falls ''is a
shared natural wonder, a gateway for both our countries and anyone
looking at the video will understand how proud America is to share it
Calls to the Canadian Tourism Commission and the foreign affairs
department were not immediately returned.
Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said
in a posting to the department's blog Thursday that the production has
the administration's blessing.
''This video clearly says: 'We want you to come to America, you will
be most welcome,''' she said.
Hughes said she commissioned the work, which Disney shot and produced
at no charge and donated, to overcome the pervasive post-Sept. 11
perception abroad that America is hostile to foreigners. She said the
video is to be given maximum exposure.
''We have already sent the video and associated posters to embassies
and consular offices across the world, where it will greet aspiring
visitors long before they arrive on our shores,'' Hughes said.
''We're going to play it in waiting rooms and at embassy events -- and
we hope it will inspire many who otherwise might not have thought
about traveling to America to come and see it for themselves.'' she