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Revealing fly-on-the-wall documentary about Ghanese scams luring overseas people into sending money by promising sex
Saw this at the IDFA documentary festival 2018 in Amsterdam. Being a world premiere, there was no information available before the screening. I only had the festival website, from which I deduced that the story would delve deep into the problem of e-waste. For sure an interesting topic. Apart from the obvious pollution it leaves behind, this movie shows additional issues arising when disposed computer media like disks or other data storage hardware, is abused to blackmail someone elsewhere in the world, by using privately made photo or video material stored on it. Alternatively, one may exploit passwords found on a disk to masquerade as someone else. Still another method is establishing contacts based on personal data, using initimate knowledge found while pretending to be an acquaintance.
Contrary to my prior assumptions, however, I saw that e-waste was not the main issue at all. It was merely shown in passing. We see hardware being dismembered, often with greater force than I had imagined. I had wrongly assumed that rare chemical elements were to be rescued, being worth some money. I don't think recycling is common practice here, after having seen how crudely everyone dealt with the material. But we can leave that topic to another documentary: Welcome to Sodom (2018) by Krönes and Weigensamer (see IDFA website for details).
Plenty couleur locale is included in this movie. Many scenes show money going from one person to another, involving meticulously counting bank notes by both sides. Everyone seems eager for money, for all sorts of purposes, including legitimate ones, like entering an internship to become a hairdresser. Other examples demonstrated that everything can be bought, including a passport that one can obtain via a travel agent. Is this one of the (many) messages that the film makers want to convey?? As a result, I found this a "noisy" movie, by showing a lot of personal stories, thus hiding the main subject for unprepared viewers. An example is above "hairdresser" story that confuses the issue. Such side-paths prevent the movie from hitting the target audience with the intended morale or message.
The announcement on the IDFA website mentioned the example of a man having to buy fish ad 250 euro per week commissioned by his employer, while himself earning only 12 euro per month for the job. Indeed, this gap in incomes and wealth seems typical for the situation of many in that country. It may explain why there is no compassion with the people they rob overseas via the so-called Ghanese scams. Everyone living there knows as a fact that people in the USA, Europe etc have lots of money. Simply browsing through photos found on the disks or via Google Street View displays expensive houses. It clearly depicts an unsurmountable gap in perspectives on the value of money. (The situation is comparable for the so-called Nigerian scam, Commonly known as the "419" scam. It is practiced for many years already, and does not seem to stop. This has little to do with Nigerians having no conscience, but rather comes from said gap in incomes and wealth.)
The movie does not take a stand, nor does it frown upon what is happening. We see the complexity of what is going on, which we never would have known otherwise. Superficially, the scams look so easy but in fact take a lot of care and persistence to massage the victims. I would not be surprised when a large percentage of the contacts "worked on" will eventually falter, meaning that the victim doesn't transfer the money asked for a sea voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, either while suspecting a scam or simply while not having the requested amounts available. That these scams are happening is an open secret in Ghana. No one condems it when "whites" are on the other side (see reasoning above).
In the final Q&A, the film maker mentioned that he avoided taking interviews, these usually leading to sad stories about money shortage and their deplorable way of living. He has chosen a different composition by just observing, something he could do without disturbing the proceedings. This "fly on the wall" way of filming is typically something an arbitrary film maker from outside Ghana would not have been able to accomplish.
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