Welcome to the Smiling Coast
Title: Welcome to the Smiling Coast
Director: Bas Ackermann
Country: The Gambia, The Netherlands
Welcome to the Smiling Coast is a feature-length documentary that offers a rare insight into the lives of 15 youngsters working in the informal sector of the Gambian tourism industry. Although the smallest country on the African mainland, the Gambia has become a popular tourist destination due to its warm climate, abundant wildlife and cheap intimacy. Each year over 100.000 tourists, many of them being older European women, visit the ‘Smiling Coast’ in search of this exotic blend of sun, safari and sex.
Most tourists are staying within the comforts of all-inclusive resorts, far removed from the everyday experience of ordinary Gambians. In fact, with a third of its population living below the poverty line, the Gambia is at present, fifty years after its independence, one of Africa’s poorest nations. Ironically, many poor Gambians, particularly youngsters, are residing only a few steps away from the tourist hotels and beaches. Here they are trying to survive in the margins of the omnipresent leisure industry. With this lure of a better future just around the corner, the dangerous ‘back way’ across deserts and high seas to Europe, is always lingering in their minds. Do they eventually try their luck abroad or find their peace at home?
Welcome to the Smiling Coast shows the varied and often creative alternative strategies Gambian youngsters employ to secure their livelihood. Capturing their struggles, hopes and dreams, this documentary puts a human and positive face on the informal economy that lies behind the glitter of the Smiling Coast.
This film is part of YardVibes, a streaming platform for content from independent African and Caribbean makers. The platform offers many titles for rent, from feature films and web series to documentaries and short films, with new content added each month. All titles can be rented individually for a modest fee, which will largely benefit the makers. You can find the complete YardVibes film streaming catalogue at bit.ly/yardvibes.