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Sakawa Review: Ghana, e-waste and online dating scams

“I’m also single with no kids, seriously looking for a honest, caring and a trusted man to spend the rest of my life with”. 

Whether you have been personally acquainted via online dating sites or exposed to this lingo in movies delving into catfishing and similar dating scams, you are likely to be sensitized enough to be cautious of the validity of such a line. 

To your surprise, however, you might not realise that you are being scammed by a network of skilled con artists in Ghana, making a concerted attempt at extorting your money. 

Your location is not safe because your whereabouts and place of work will be inspected on Google Maps. You will think you are talking to a woman on the phone but the scammer is a man putting on a high-pitched, seductive voice or – let this be an education – using a device that transmits a female voice as he speaks into the phone. These are the revelations of Sakawa.

In Ben Asamoah’s enthralling debut feature, he investigates a dating scamming syndicate, juxtaposing his findings with observations on the e-waste industry. He uncovers how scammers access discarded hard drives and cellphones containing private and personal information. 

The documentary seemlessly navigates the lives of a handful of players; Ama, a struggling single mother who aspires to own a hair salon while trying to learn the trade, “OneDollar”, who has yet to travel out of the country but is working to earn enough money to move to Italy, and Francis, who seems to be at the helm of the business, willing to share his expertise with his colleagues. 

The cohort works in a shabby room with a web of wires running across the floor. Couches line the walls and everyone is tethered to their laptops. The Internet is the only means of survival in this virtual hive of activity. 

Sakawa encourages you to question who the real victims are by playing with several provocations. A houseboy earns 12 euros a month, whereas his employer spends 250 euros a week on fish. Whites are regarded as easy targets and may be typecast by names such as “Peter” for their shocking levels of stupidity. 

However, the most compelling realisation is the hopelessness that these people face. Sakawa achieves brutal honesty, emotional resonance and outrageous humour in this non-judgmental portrayal of crime, poverty and digitized romance.

Sakawa screens until 30th August 2020 at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. 

This story emanates from the Talent Press, an initiative of Talents Durban in collaboration with the Durban FilmMart. The views of this article reflect the opinions of the film critic, Taryn Joffe.

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Taryn Joffe
Taryn Joffe is a Cape Town-based film festival and distribution coordinator, programmer and writer.

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