Sakawa @ Toronto True Crime Film Fest

When people cannot find a job in Canada there is social aid to fall back onto. If you cannot find a job in Ghana you will starve. As such, young people there sometimes take on jobs that we might find unsavoury or immoral. It is not for us to judge.

Ben Asamoah’s (first film) 2018 documentary Sakawa pulls back the curtain on young men in Ghana who attempt to make a living by defrauding others. They scam Westerners using the Internet. Buying discarded computers they use the photos and videos they find to unearth victims. They collect hard drives from scrap yards. Then try to find information on it which gives them leads on people with money. Using this information, they engage in online relationships with men around the world. They prey on the lonely. These young (largely) men pretend to be single young women. Cultivating relationships through frequent messages and the occasional phone call using terrible fake female voices. Once the men are on the hook then they try to get money from them.

Most of the victims are white men. White men are looks down upon as stupid. One of the young scammers says “In the UK every guy named Peter is stupid.”. They do not even see going after white clients as wrong. Most of the victims are in Belgium, Canada, UK, and the U.S. White people are seen as corrupt and wasteful, so they don’t feel guilty about taking their money.

The ironic thing you learn while watching the film is that the young men working the scams are trying to get money so that they can attract women. To make the viewer more sympathetic, Asamoah sheds light on the lives of some of the young men portrayed in his film. One wants to make enough money to move to Italy. He wants to farm and make enough money to come back for his daughter. Another is teaching his sister how to troll a dating site for men to get money from. She wants to learn how to be a hairdresser, but needs money to learn.

All this is done without the use of interviews. Interviews tend towards melodrama in cases or films like this. Heart strings are not tugged here via sad personal stories. Instead the viewer gets to be a fly on the wall. We are allowed to watch and make decisions on our own.

As far as taking a stand, the film does not. It does not come out on one side or the other of the issue. It does lean towards arguing that these types of scams are a result of the financial inequality between different parts of the world and different races. The gap in wealth and wages is to blame not the individuals involved. It is acknowledged that it is a complex issue.

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