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Chameleon - East End Film Festival

Monday 6 July 2015, by Miranda Mungai

Chameleon is a light-hearted and genuinely interesting look at the “most successful investigative journalist in Africa:” Ghana-based Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who helps the police investigate serious crimes and reports them back to the public. The documentary follows Anas as he takes on several serious criminal cases and successfully raises awareness of these among the general public, seeking full transparency as a means to reduce corruption in Ghana. This is the recurrent message of the film; viewers are encouraged to remember the seriousness of the work that lies beneath Anas’ s playful attitude.
Anas is essentially presented as a story-teller, a journalist with a greater ethical agenda. The fact that he hides his face from the world is an important way for him to promote his work over his character. Yet the film highlights his humanity by not solely focusing on his work, but also showing him interacting with schoolchildren and his family.

The documentary eschews sensationalism in favour of a sober and honest assessment of Anas’s work, despite his secret identity and undercover police work, which could make him come across as some sort of Batman-like figure. But there is no sob story there to bring any sort of extra validation to his journalism. This is prevalent in the footage of arrests, which despite being tense, are not glamourised. They are given more weight by instances of ethical discussions: is what Anas and the police are doing actually effective, right or best for those involved? One case involving a cultish church camp shows his struggle to define the victims and accurately separate them from the perpetrators. These questions and the comparative structure of the film mean that the police’s victory seems much less sweet when the ‘victims’ look distressed and confused. Including such points allows for a more unbiased documentary, which doesn’t automatically suggest that the job Anas and the Ghanaian police are doing is perfect, but rather presents it as a step in the right direction. Painful interviews with victims of the crimes that Anas aims to bring to public attention only serve to reinforce this point.

This film is engaging and offers audiences an important glimpse into Ghana’s attempts to combat endemic corruption and, beyond that, into a society far removed from some oft-pedalled clichés of poverty and despair. It shows us self-sufficient, dignified people, striving to better conditions for their peers. This only serves to underline the importance of Anas’s work and his success, despite the occasional ethical questions it raises.

Dir. Ryan Mullins, 2015

Chameleon will be screened as part of the East End Film Festival at Rich Mix, London on 8 July at 6.30.
Tickets available at the Rich Mix website here.

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