Film review: Smile Gambia

Director: Selina Brown
Certificate: U
Running time: 10 mins

It doesn’t take a person to have travelled all corners of the Earth to figure that the disused-railway-arch-turned-night-spot is a far cry from Gambia – the country I’ve read described as the ‘smiling coast of Africa.’ Sat on a stiff wooden church bench, red mood lighting covers the dark wood and brick with a sangria overcoat, while the gentleman’s lounge-style light fittings give the impression of middle-class grandeur and evening solace. All that’s lacking is a brandy snifter and pipe to match my crimson lips but I came to indulge in film, and in my excitement, forgot my purse, so no such luck for a beverage.

Smile Gambia poster

Smile Gambia, Selina Brown’s journey to spread her eternal happiness across continents attracted many more than just those in their one’s and two’s. A lively room, where African prints stood upright without the hanger of an out-of-touch and underweight runway model. Locs hang loose from scarves adorned by patterns that merge with the loose kinks of hair coiled above the ear. It’s a beautiful dimmed sight hidden away in Spotlight Bar, Digbeth – a cavern where the lights remain low to allow the culture beats to take centre stage and satisfy the ears of all those who have come to share in the premiere.

Capturing the essence of what can be created with a big heart and big ambitions to match, it was testament that ‘whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ Through her own self admission, armed with nothing but the laws of attraction and Facebook, Director of grassroots organisations, Dream BIG and Creative High, Selina asked herself: “How can I spread some love around the world?” The answer, encapsulated in this short 10 minute documentary, was to follow her roots back to Africa, but this time with generous donations from England to share amongst some of the poorest villages in Gambia.

This was no Oxfam campaign or Save the Children sob-story on screen; no doubt helped by collaborating with the talented Richi Fingerz, film-maker and founder of SoUk. The opening credits flashed on top of stunning aerial shots caught flying over Gambia, while the shaky camera and point-of-view framing gave it added realism and sincerity. If you’ve never experienced the hilarity of travelling through an African airport, you’ll find yourself amused very early on; followed by tears and swollen eyes, but ending in the utmost joy, gratitude and choral singing. The entire film sang a beautiful melody to everyone in the audience so here it is below for your viewing pleasure.


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