This film is held by the BFI (ID: 10959).


A Central Office of Information film outlining the planned development of the Gold Coast over the next ten years.

Over footage of a beach, scrolling titles introduce the film. 'The colonies are the responsibility of the British people', the titles explain. 'In the next ten years we plan to spend £120,000,000 on development and welfare. £3,500,000 will go to the Gold Coast. A West African, Augustus Engmann, tells why this is needed'. The West African commentator then outlines a history of the area - 'You used these forts to defend us against the slave traders' - and the relationship between the British governor and the Africans who 'now have the majority in our legislative council'. The film presents Accra as a modern city 'with African judges, as well as doctors, lawyers and newspaper editors' - and outlines the work of the town council. It shows local market scenes, a local European-trained midwife, and then highlights the need for more clean water.

A map is then used to explain the geography of the Gold Coast, and the development of transport through the area. This leads to a discussion of the Northern Territories - the 'most backward part of the country' - highlighting the traditional life in Mamprusi, where 'life is a struggle which is never-ending'. The problems faced within the village are emphasised; outdated agricultural methods, flooding, polluted water, and tsetse fly. Scenes of the local market, of a 'native' court and of tax collection follow, before the District Officer presides over a meeting of the local chiefs as they decide what to do with the taxes. The commentator explains that the money contributes to the building of wells, the maintenance of existing services, like bridges, the clearing of bush to remove tsetse fly, and most of all to educational facilities for children.

The second reel talks of the Gold Coast of the future that 'you and we are building and planning'. There are shots of brick-built schools, and of African music and dancing, as the commentator affirms that 'we won't forget our old customs whatever happens'. The film next shows surfboats and the modern harbour at Takoradi, which forms 'part of our export drive'. Further modern industries are shown, such as diamond and bauxite mines, before the medical achievements, represented by the campaign against yaws, are illustrated. Next, the film focuses on Achimota College where the 'teachers are British and African - a real team'. Students also learn new ways of expression through art, while women learn to cook and wash. The commentator refers to the 'lessons you have taught us so that at last we may stand on our own feet' and concludes that Achimota is a 'symbol to you and me that in these walls lies the future of the Gold Coast'.



In its review of Here is the Gold Coast in December 1947, Kinematograph Weekly explained that ‘the idea of the film is to impress upon audiences the need for spending three-and-a-half million on further developing the territory during the next ten years’ (KW, 25 December 1947, 16). Oliver Stanley, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had presented a new Colonial Development and Welfare bill to the House of Commons in February 1945, which would provide £120 million for development schemes and research work in the colonies over the next ten years (The Times, 1 February 1945, 2). Succeeding the existing Act of 1940, which granted up to £5 million a year, the new Act was intended to allow for longer-term development and planning, and proposed to offer just over £30 million to West Africa, of which Nigeria was allocated £23 million and the Gold Coast £3.5 million (The Times, 13 December 1945, 5) In proposing the scheme, Stanley explained to the cabinet that ‘the Colonial Empire means so much to us that we should be prepared to assume some burden for its future. If we are unable or unwilling to do so, are we justified in retaining, or shall we be able to retain, a Colonial Empire?’ (Pearce, 1982, 65).

Here is the Gold Coast brought together existing COI footage filmed by John Page – for example, the lengthy sequence in the Northern Territories had featured in his 1944 film A Mamprusi Village – and played both in England and overseas in theatrical and non-theatrical venues. It was shown at the Edinburgh Festival in 1947 in a programme including films from India, Australia and Palestine and was listed for release through United Artists and described in Kinematograph Weekly as an ‘adequate full quota featurette’ (KW, 25 December 1947, 16). The film was also distributed non-theatrically in America through British Information Services. A publication for the National Association for Secondary School Principals in America in 1948 noted that 24 prints of the film had been sold in the first three months in America (Audio-Visual Guide, 1948, 18). Public screenings included a free showing alongside Daybreak in Udi in March 1951 as part of a monthly series presented by the Los Angeles County Museum, a run a few weeks later at the News-Palace theatre in Long Beach, and a presentation at the University of Michigan in October 1951 (Independent Long Beach, 11 March 1951, 32-A). Posters for the screening in Long Beach, which was described somewhat misleadingly as its ‘1st U.S. showing’, stated that this ‘British Govt. film’ promised to show ‘West Africa as it is today’ (Long Beach Press-Telegram, 4 April, 1951, B-6).

The film though was not without its detractors and was strongly criticised in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1955. ‘The Gold Coast students [in Britain] complain bitterly that they were shocked to see the film entitled “Here is the Gold Coast”’, the Legislative transcripts note. ‘The film featured only people from the remotest parts of the country who were perhaps almost all naked’. The speaker suggested that the film generated racial tension – ‘when it was shown, landladies gave students notices to quit’ – and resented, in particular, the stereotypes and emphasis on the ‘exotic’ within the film. ‘I wonder whether the Director of Information Services’, the speaker asked, ‘can say how many of the films shown in this country depict the slum areas of, say, Manchester or Liverpool or 37 Upper Parliament Street. When films are made in this country one finds that poor fishermen living in Jamestown and such other places are the people shown’ (Jahoda, 1961, 67).

Such a representation evidently endorsed the film’s intended message of British development, but it also directed the discourses surrounding the film. Monthly Film Bulletin noted how ‘in the northern territories life goes on as it has done for centuries’, while Kinematograph Weekly argued that this ‘unvarnished half pint documentary’, shows ‘what has been done and what still remains to be done for its teeming native population’ (MFB, 1948, 172). ‘Originally a fever-ridden swamp and death trap’, the review continued, ‘the Gold Coast is now an important industrial and trading centre’ (KW, 25 December 1947, 16). Documentary Film News, while criticising the story construction and the ‘singularly inappropriate and entirely supplementary musical score’, described the film as the story of ‘the development of a backward people’. ‘It shows us much in the lives of the people of West Africa that will be new to English audiences’ it concluded. ‘It helps us to understand and to regard sympathetically many of their problems – and it reminds us, too, that some of the biggest problems (malnutrition, for instance) are only too international’ (Documentary Film News, February 1948, 18).

A number of reviews reserved special praise for the West African commentator, who was deemed to give the film authenticity. Monthly Film Bulletin stated that the commentary, ‘spoken by a native of the Gold Coast’, was ‘excellently delivered’, while the notes for the Edinburgh festival in 1947 stated that ‘The film gives an impression of objective analysis, which is strengthened by the absence of any sense of complacency and the use of a native-born commentator’ (Documentary News Letter, 1947, 153). 



The opening lines of Here is the Gold Coast explain that ‘the colonies are the responsibility of the British people’ and establish the film as an endorsement and justification of the new Development and Welfare Act. In highlighting the need for continued British involvement, the film prioritises the undeveloped Northern territories and presents a traditional colonial rhetoric, in which the British defended the Gold Coast ‘against slave traders’ and now bring modern industry, medicine, and education to the region. Such a message of colonial self-determination plays both to English audiences, for whom the Labour government sought to show its efforts in enacting social change, and to American audiences, where such a message of development serves to defend and justify the British retention of a post-war African Empire.

Through the example of Accra, the film highlights the developments already introduced by the British – the city has a modern democratic system and ‘African judges, as well as doctors, lawyers and newspaper editors’. The locals are represented, in their dress, as a confluence of African and European influences, and are aligned with the western viewers. The commentator states that ‘Housewives struggle as yours do to get what they want’, while the British influence is emphasised as ‘European training now helps our midwives save mothers and babies who before would die’.

The example of Accra is contrasted with the Northern territories – ‘only 15 years ago it came under British rule’ – which, as in A Mamprusi Village, is represented as a still-undeveloped and ‘backward’ land. The film shows specific and detailed aspects of local life rarely seen on film, including images of disease and famine. However, the response of the West African students and politicians to this film indicates their growing resentment with this ‘foreign’ emphasis on the ‘exotic’ aspects of the country, and such a representation is, in many respects, further legitimised and strengthened by its West African commentator. The African commentator lends an authenticity to the film as, while this is a British script, he claims to speak on behalf of the Africans. He repeatedly refers to ‘we Africans’ – ‘we must learn new skills, so we can play a full part [in the Empire]’ – and stresses that the Africans and Europeans must work together. ‘You and we are building and planning’, he states, while also highlighting that their products and industries are directed towards Britain (‘much of that going back to you’, ‘perhaps this timber is for furniture in England’). This sense of continued collaboration is particularly pertinent at a moment of growing unrest in Accra, symbolised by riots in the city from February 1948, and is consequently reiterated in the film’s conclusion.

The film now shows Achimota College, where ‘the teachers are British and African. They are a real team’. It emphasises that the British professionals have helped ‘in countless ways’ but are now ‘teaching us to do these jobs ourselves’. This may appear to illustrate a preparation and move towards independence, as the commentator also states that education, possible through ‘your government’s grant’, is the way to ensure that ‘one day we can look after our own selves’. Yet the language suggests that this will be a slow process (‘one day’) and certainly does not foresee the Gold Coast achieving independence within the next decade. Instead the commentator reiterates the long-term British responsibilities to the colony as he states ‘it is your colony. The British people are in the long run responsible’.

Tom Rice (February 2009)


Works Cited

‘Here is the Gold Coast’, Documentary Film News, February 1948, 18.

‘Edinburgh in Review’, Documentary News Letter, November/December 1947, 153.

‘Films Show African Scenes’, Independent Long Beach, 11 March 1951, 32-A.

Jahoda, Gustav, White Man: A Study of the Attitudes of Africans to Europeans in Ghana Before Independence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).

‘Here is the Gold Coast’, Kinematograph Weekly, 25 December 1947, 16.

Long Beach Press-Telegram, 4 April 1951, B-6.

‘Here is the Gold Coast’, Monthly Film Bulletin, 15 (1948), 172.

National Association of Secondary School Principals (U.S.), National Council of Teachers of English, Audio-Visual Guide (Educational and Recreational Guides, inc., 1948), 18.

Pearce, Robert D., The Turning Point in Africa: British Colonial Policy, 1938-48 (London: Frank Cass, 1982).

‘New Aid In Colonial Development: £120,000,000 Spread Over Ten Years’, The Times, 1 February 1945, 2.

‘Colonial Development Grants To Encourage Welfare And Research’, The Times, 13 December 1945, 5.




Technical Data

Running Time:
35 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
3131 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
PAGE, John
Central Office of Information
cast member
ENGMAN, Augustine
Commentary Writer
Music Director
ENGMANN, Augustus
PAGE, John
Production Company
Central Office of Information