Sakawa

Internet scams steal billions of dollars from the unsuspecting every year. A plethora of docs and news reports highlight the victims of these scams, but what about the scammers? Would it change your opinion, if you could see the world from the eyes of the scammer? Would you care?

Ben Asamoah’s Sakawa takes us to the country of Ghana and the small town of Sakawa, where locals search for economic freedom using the resources available to them, specifically the electronic waste dumped on Ghana by the West. Much of this waste comes in the form of abandoned PC hard-drives and discarded cell phones.

Asamoah spotlight three of Sakawa’s young folk: Ama is a young mother and new to internet scams. She hopes to make enough money from her “clients” to pay for university and a better life for her child. As a woman, she has the luxury to pass on authentic pictures of herself in sexy photos.

“Would it change your opinion, if you could see the world from the eyes of the scammer?”

“OneDollar” is also new to the scam, and he has dreams of traveling abroad to Europe. He needs money for expenses including getting his passport, which is not cheap. He’s young and innovative by uncovering a phone that will disguise his voice as a woman. He is also able to play a video of a European woman on the dating chat site and make it look like the client is having a real conversation.

Francis is the veteran. He is more than willing to pass on his knowledge to Ama and Francis. We see how he can casually slip into his female voice and seduces the men on the other end of the phone. We also follow him into the local market purchases new SIM cards for the used phones he buys.

Sakawa out like a narrative in the guise of a documentary. A shot opens with Francis and Ama sitting across from one another, and they discuss the tricks of the trade. The camera gets amazingly close on its subjects and completely ignores the filmmakers are there.

“The film will play upon your sympathies…”

The film will play upon your sympathies. These are young kids just trying to stay financially afloat with some hope of a dream. That is until you hear them put on their sexy voice and flirting with their clients. They’re not presented as a sophisticated gang of con artists, and you see the life they currently live along with the good life awaiting them, if only they had the money.

We can debate internet scammer and victims. Who really is the victim? Are they just going after perverts or lonely men looking for love? Setting guilt and innocence aside, Sakawa gives us a small glance at the other side of the internet scam coin.

Sakawa (2019) Directed by Ben Asamoah. Sakawa screened at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

7 out of 10 stars

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