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Playing at a theatre near you: Ottawa’s shock-and-awe film on War of 1812

When the Harper government set out to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, it promised to celebrate a formative event without stirring up anti-American sentiment.

A new government video advertisement designed to educate Canadians about the conflict throws all that nuance out the window.

To borrow a phrase from the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, Ottawa's "Fight For Canada" ad turns the dial up to 11.

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"Two hundred years ago, the United States invaded our territory," the narrator tells viewers in a grim and determined voice as war drums and frantic violins play in the background.

In what might be better titled "1812, The Summer Movie," the video - now playing in theatres - is designed to stir up patriotic fervour.

It's a one-minute adrenalin trip full of dark forests, closeups of weapons and battle, and pride at repelling American assailants – one that is more Jerry Bruckheimer than Canadian Heritage Moment.

"But we defended our land," the narrator continues as American and British soldiers line up opposite each other before they begin blasting away with rifles.

The final few moments of the short depict military commanders preparing to give the command to start killing. "Ready .... aim ... fire!"

Almost like a movie trailer, the short introduces four main characters, superimposing their names on the screen as brief dramatic vignettes flash by.

There's Laura Secord, who delivered vital news to the British. As the script says: "In the forest, we see a woman running. She seems to be in a panic"

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There's a brief glimpse of Isaac Brock the heroic general who deserves full marks for his battle smarts and valour.

And there's Tecumseh, the Native-American leader who allied with the British to capture Fort Detroit.

The narrator ends by saying: "Learn more about the War of 1812. Visit 1812.gc.ca."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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