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SXSW: Sakawa

“We are the hustlers.”

Director Ben Asamoah’s new documentary Sakawa explores the underground world of Ghanian internet scammers. They gather in a room sharing one source of internet and electricity and using smartphones and computer equipment that they’ve salvaged. The scammers work individually on different projects but advise each other on how to improve their techniques to get the most money out of their victims. By creating fake online personas and focusing on profile types, mostly caucasians in the U.S. and the U.K., they build relationships with their targets and work towards the big pay day.

Viewers will feel conflicted. This is a community of people living in a third-world country. They have few options available to them so they find an alternate way to make money to support themselves and their families. But on the flip side, they’re scamming innocent people out of their hard-earned dollars. These aren’t multi-millionaires, these are middle or lower class people who are gullible enough to fall for these elaborately crafted schemes.

“We use what we have to get what we want.”

There are no in-depth interviews and we don’t learn their names. The film holds the viewer at arms-length which is necessary I believe to keep us in as neutral a space as possible. Some might find the film and its subject matter off-putting but I found it fascinating.

Beyond the internet scams, we also get a look at the religious/cultural practices and home life of Ghanians. 

Sakawa is a compelling documentary that offers insight into the little-known world of internet scammers of Ghana, Africa. 

Sakawa had its North American premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival as part of their Visions series.

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