A documentary filmmaker follows Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas on three of his undercover investigative cases

The shape-shifter at the center of Ryan Mullins’ concise and involving Chameleon is journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a Ghanaian in his 30s who conducts elaborate undercover stings. In his successful crusade to “name, shame and jail” perpetrators of human rights abuses, along with the fraudulent and the corrupt, Anas has disguised himself as a sheikh, a woman and a rock, among other borrowed identities.

In the documentary, he never appears without his face blurred or obstructed, yet he gradually comes into focus. That’s partly the result of the few personal facts that emerge, but Mullins’ chief concern, like Anas’s, is the work itself. With adrenaline-pumping, fly-on-the-wall immediacy, the director-cinematographer-editor exposes the work’s perils, frustrations and triumphs as well as the ethical questions it raises.

Mullins is there for Anas’s exuberant appearance before teen students at his former school (eyes and nose covered by a curtain of beaded strings), and the filmmaker is by his side when he visits his grandmother and hands out cash to all her neighbors in the village. First and foremost, he follows Anas and his colleagues as they close in on three targets: a spiritualist accused of raping children, an illegal abortionist who forces women to have sex with him, and an abusive religious cult.

The film incorporates hidden-camera video gathered by Anas’s team as evidence, often over many months and across national borders. A female television producer who works with Anas speaks with conviction about the galvanizing effect some of that evidence has had on her. “The first time I saw it,” she says of footage of the abortionist, “I broke down.”

Anas’s investigations in print and visual media, as editor of the New Crusading Guide, have made him a faceless celebrity. Approached by Mullins, people on the streets of Accra sing Anas’s praises. It’s easy to see why a BBC reporter refers to him as “investigative journalist extraordinaire,” why he was name-checked by President Obama, and why his TED talk has been viewed more than a million times.

It’s also easy to see why his unorthodox methods make some bristle. According to an onscreen title that appears early in the film, he “works directly with law enforcement to ensure that justice is carried out effectively.” Imagine that being said of an American journalist. By the time Anas makes his final appearance at a target’s door, he’s accompanied by police and armed with an arrest warrant. Mullins captures exchanges with cops, who clearly respect Anas, in which he seems to be calling the shots. At one point, Anas needs to be reminded that the charges against a suspect are not his to decide.

And yet, culprits whose victims are powerless might continue to operate in the shadows if not for his tireless efforts. Mullins interviews a newsman who cites the Ghana Journalists Association code of ethics, which states that information should not be obtained through subterfuge. The journalist then tempers that guideline with the observation that, in a society of multiple cultures like Ghana’s, ethics are more a matter of resilience than they are absolute.

In Mullins’ footage, a sense of lack among Ghanaians is evident, but also a sense of forward-looking energy. If, as one observer notes, sub-Saharan Africa is a rich land whose people are impoverished, Anas is a hero, defending those who have no power and condemning those who abuse it. He’s not unaware of the gray-area complexities of his work, but he’s driven to pursue justice and determined to put himself on the line to achieve it. The justice he effects — the longed-for triumph of right over wrong — is the stuff of wish fulfillment that has driven Hollywood movies for decades, and storytelling for eons. It’s no wonder that some Ghanaians believe he has superpowers.

Production company: EyeSteelFilm
Director: Ryan Mullins
Producer: Bob Moore
Executive producers: Daniel Cross, Mila Aung-Thwin, Robin Smith, Steven Silver, Neil Tabatznik
Director of photography: Ryan Mullins
Editor: Ryan Mullins
Composer: Florencia di Concilio
Sales: Dogwoof

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Published On: April 29th, 2015 / Categories: News /

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Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a Ghanaian investigative journalist born in the late 1970s. He specializes in print media and documentary and is politically non-aligned focusing on issues of human rights and anti-corruption in sub-Saharan Africa. Anas' motto is "name, shame and jail", and he is famous for utilizing his anonymity as a tool in his investigative arsenal. Very few people had seen his face (until an "unmasking" during a BBC interview in November 2015 —which revealed yet another prosthetic).

Anas has won more than 50 international and local awards for his work advocating basic human rights, such as the right to not be held in human slavery and for his work exposing corruption. His investigative works have won him worldwide acclaim, including President Barack Obama highlighting him in a speech during a 2009 visit to Ghana: "An independent press”, a vibrant private sector, a civil society….those are the things that give life to democracy. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth.”

Anas hail from Bimbilla in Northern Ghana and grew up in Burma Camp, a military barracks in Accra. He attended the Christian Methodist Secondary School and Ghana Institute of Journalism where he got his first diploma before studying his first degree at the University of Ghana. He later attended the Faculty of Law and the Ghana Law School.

After university he turned down an opportunity to work as a reporter for the Ghanaian Times newspaper, instead choosing to join The Crusading Guide newspaper in 1998. The editor of the newspaper, Kweku Baako Jnr, had just been released from jail in the same year. Anas later became co-publisher of The New Crusading Guide, and subsequently opened his own production and investigation company, Tiger Eye PI Media, in 2008.

Anas has collaborated widely with Al-Jazeera and the BBC, among other international clients. In 2017 he started The Tiger Eye Foundation as a media non- profit and 501c3, in the USA and Ghana, that uses a dynamic set of initiatives to promote and elevate the standards in journalism. The foundation educates and supports journalists through hands-on investigative journalism workshops, multimedia boot camps, investigative productions, broadcasts and community outreach programs. Anas was called to the Bar in 2013, and since then has mostly defended himself in court.

In December 2015 Foreign Policy magazine named Anas one of 2015's leading global thinkers, an honour previously granted to the likes of Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, and Malala Yousafzai. He is consistently invited to talk on his work at gatherings all around the world and in March 2016, Anas was invited by Harvard Law School as a keynote speaker to share his experiences creating change on the continent of Africa. In 2016 Anas had an award named after him by the Press Foundation in Ghana. The founder of the press foundation Mr Listowel Yesu Bukarson said: "This award was named after the world-renowned investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas to aid journalists to climb to the highest apogee in their chosen profession". 'Chameleon’ by Ryan Mullins, a documentary about Anas's life and work, was premiered at the 2014 IDFA festival in Amsterdam.

In the period from October to December 2016, Anas made his first foray into public life, outside of the world of investigative journalism, as a powerful advocate for peace in his "Anas4Peace" multimedia campaign, using Ghanaian celebrities to advocate for peace during the Ghana election period.

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