SXSW Film Review: Sakawa

Documentary shows the underbelly of Ghanian internet scammers

How much flirting does it take to unlock a lonely man’s wallet? Spoiler alert: For the Ghanian scam artists in Sakawa, the answer is “roughly seven days’ worth.”

Much of the documentary takes place inside a cramped house where a dozen Ghanian men sit on couches, tapping away at their keyboards to build relationships with “clients” on dating sites. The scammers pose as women, augmenting their voices with special cell phones or simply by speaking in a higher pitch. Female scammers “use what they have to get what they want.” (For better or worse, the gritty, long-distance sex acts described never appear on screen.) It’s lucrative: The first ask is usually for $50, but the sky is the limit once a client is hooked.

Ghanian Director Ben Asamoah shows the scammers’ disdain for the single men they court, but never casts them as villains. Great documentaries expose worlds you’d never otherwise see, and Sakawa succeeds at lifting the veil on what’s now a pop culture trope. It’s a chilling view, but the film’s non-judgmental lens misses moments of self reflection or reckoning. Like the clients themselves, the viewer is left wanting to see more.


Visions, North American Premiere

Monday, March 11, 4:15pm, Alamo Ritz 2
Friday, March 15, 1:45pm, Alamo South Lamar C

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SXSW Film 2019, Sakawa, Ben Asamoah

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