Watson's bill: Films ideal for American way


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., thinks that wider worldwide screening of classic Hollywood fare will help convince people that the American way of life is not evil.

Watson, who chairs the House Entertainment Caucus, has introduced legislation that seeks to have movies screened in U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.

The bill, H.R. 2533, known as the Public Diplomacy Resource Centers Act of 2007, establishes a film series in honor of Johnny Grant, Hollywood's unofficial mayor.

"My legislation is designed to stock libraries of U.S. embassies and consulates with films that promote the American way of life and then loosen current restrictions so that the public can have greater access," Watson said. "Many of us have forgotten that we didn't win the Cold War just because our military and economy were superior, but also because the Warsaw Pact countries bought into our ideals and beliefs in democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the free flow of information."

The legislation grew out of a trip Watson made to South Africa last year and her visit to the State Department's Rosa Parks Library in Soweto, which had been slated to be closed because of a lack of funding. Funding cuts and terrorism concerns have reduced the number of U.S. libraries and access to them around the world.

While her bill doesn't address those concerns, she said that U.S. films can be valuable cultural tools.

"In meeting the new challenges of religious fundamentalism and terrorism at the beginning of the 21st century, it is critical that we reinvigorate our nation's public diplomacy apparatus," Watson said. "The State Department's libraries have played and must continue to play a critical role in that process. It is important that our overseas libraries remain viable and accessible."