La Sonrisa del Sol is a heartwarming documentary released last year by The Canaries Tourism board. The moving 24 minute film tells the tale of eleven Greenlandic Inuit from Kunusuk who leave the isolation of their icy home for nine days of sunshine in the Canary Islands. It was made as part of a project by Sociologist Francesc Bouilon, who wished to observe and record the group’s emotional reactions to the unfamiliar textures and sensations of sun, sea and sand.
To put his idea in context let me tell you something about the extensive differences between the two places. The Canary Islands are a volcanic archipelago of seven Spanish islands off the west coast of Africa. A natural phenomenon involving Atlantic currents, trade winds and geography means that they enjoy one of the most temperate climates in the world, with long warm summers and moderately warm winters. Kulusuk on the other hand is a small village on a remote island of the same name in east Greenland. The island is consistently exposed to persistent northeasterly winds and freezing rain with the temperatures sitting around zero to minus 10 for a great part of the year.
During the course of the film our little band of Inuits get exposed to all kinds of things that the locals take for granted. It is really impelling to watch them immerse themselves in each new adventure, from swimming in the sea to playing golf and meeting camels. Every sensation seems to bring a pure delight as they become like children experiencing everything for the very first time.
There is a wonderful scene when they first arrive on Gran Canaria and go shopping for summer clothes. Ever practical they start with flip flops to replace their customary fur lined boots, but Mogu, a seal hunter by trade, gets distracted by a rather skimpy pair of swimming trunks! Another very touching moment comes when Anda Kuitse, the eldest of the party, shares a musical moment with one of the islanders. Anda comes from a drum dancer family and the songs he shares with his new acquaintance and a group of friendly tourists express more than a hundred years of tradition from his homeland.
The group travel to each island in the archipelago, drinking in the lush vegetation, the warmth, music, sun, sand and water sports that are on offer. We see the little children sinking their toes into soft white sand for the first time and Augo, who is around 9 or 10 years old, sharing his culture with the island children of the same age. They have drawn him pictures of white houses, blue water and palm trees and he in return presents them with a picture of a polar bear.
These little joys are framed with beautiful cinematography highlighting the contrast between the two terrains and cleverly mixed footage that illustrates the diversity of the two cultures. The overall effect is that we are privvy to a uniquely complete picture of their experiences and, at the end of the film, an unexplainable feeling of sadness as they leave the sunshine behind. Watch the video for yourself (you won’t regret it we promise!) or find out more here.