In September 1954 the United States Information Service presented Cinerama's panoramic widescreen projection and surround-sound technology at the First Damascus International Exposition. This exercise in “soft-power” cultural diplomacy underlay the U.S. government's participation in the event, a “festival” of national progress and development staged in the midst of three interrelated contests—the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a multisided struggle for Arab supremacy via control of Syria's foreign policy orientation. Drawing on declassified U.S. diplomatic correspondence, Syrian press coverage of the exposition, and the content of the film This Is Cinerama, this article compares U.S. and Syrian perceptions of the exposition and the multimedia spectacle it embodied. In the process, the article explores the reach of U.S. “soft-power” cultural diplomacy efforts in the Arab world after World War II, as well as the relationship among politics, technology, and cultural representation.

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