“Journalism,” says the Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, “is defined according to your jurisdiction and according to the development that happens around you.” Anas’ journalism is defined by complex undercover investigations that often end in coordinated arrests by law enforcement officials. To that end, Anas seeks to keep his likeness a secret. In 2010, The Atlantic’s Nicholas Schmidle reported that he owned thirty wigs. He wears bucket hats or hoodies during public appearances, his face further concealed by woven curtains. He appeared at TED2013 behind a veil of red and white wool, telling the assembled audience, “My kind of journalism might not fit in other continents or other countries, but I can tell you, it works in my part of the continent of Africa.”

Anas is on another continent now. It’s the day before the Hot Docs premiere of Chameleon, Canadian filmmaker Ryan Mullins’ documentary about his work, and the pair is sitting in the fifty-first floor recreation room of a Toronto high-rise. Anas is wearing a blue bucket hat. Black and blue tassels hang from its brim and cover his face. In Chameleon, Mullins films Anas from behind or through similar disguises. The movie captures the organization and execution of stings against sex traffickers and an abortionist who tricks patients into having sex with him. Chameleon is not a film about disguises; it is a film about a disguised journalist.

Ryan Mullins started out studying journalism. After graduating, he travelled to Ghana to teach students to use new media equipment for storytelling. While in Ghana, he also made his first documentary short, Volta, about a decaying art-deco cinema. He first heard of Anas from a friend who sent him an article about “this larger than life James Bond character.” Mullins’ friend had gone to school with Anas and was able to put the two in touch. “We spoke on the phone ten, fifteen minutes before I jumped on a plane.”

When I have information and I keep it to my chest because of ethics that say I’m not supposed to collaborate with the state, how would the bad people be brought to book?

“I was always looking for a reason to go back,” Mullins says. “I love the country.” Chameleon, though it is not uncritical, is rooted in that love. Mullins talks about wanting to portray the Ghana he had experienced, “which wasn’t so much what we see in the media.” Nowhere is this more the case than Accra, which Mullins calls “a cosmopolitan city, a city on the rise, a little bit on the cusp with its military dictatorship past and its fledgling democracy.”

Anas, both in Chameleon and daily life, represents this transitional moment. “Africa’s democracy is at a young stage,” he explains. “It would be foolish on our part as journalists to decide to operate differently from what society needs.” In the name of those needs, Anas sometimes works with the police to bring the subjects of his investigations to justice. “When I have information and I keep it to my chest because of ethics that say I’m not supposed to collaborate with the state,” he asks, “how would the bad people be brought to book?”

“If we all say that at the end of the day we want society to progress,” Anas argues, “then that should be the focus.” While nobody is openly opposed to societal progress, one might reasonably wonder whether that, above all else, is what defines journalism. Anas has results to show for this approach—malfeasants who have been brought to justice—but with those results come this collection of tautological constructions about ends and means. The main concession Anas makes is that “what is ethic to you may not be ethic to me.” Fair enough: The vagaries of moral and ethical relativism are unlikely to be settled in a penthouse rec room in Toronto.

My kind of journalism might not fit in other continents or other countries, but I can tell you, it works in my part of the continent of Africa.

Chameleon, however, recognizes that Anas is not without his critics, even in Ghana. “We’re making this film and we stand back from it and we say we need a critical voice in there,” Mullins explains. That voice, which belongs to Ghanaian journalist Kwesi Pratt, was actually suggested by Anas. “I enjoy a good relation with Kwesi Pratt, and he’s a very good supporter of my work,” he explains. “He’s also a man on his own in his own right and I thought that his thoughts were quite important.” His thoughts, which largely boil down to the belief that subterfuge is in contravention of journalistic ethics, were hardly a secret prior to filming. Mullins says he came to Pratt because he was known for “speaking a bit about some of the James Bond tactics that Anas has used.”

James Bond is a major point of reference in Chameleon, appearing in Pratt’s criticism and Anas’ mythos as well as influencing Mullins’ filmmaking. “I thought we could create a cool ambience, almost like a throwback to The Sting [or] 70s spy genre, where the building of the case is more intriguing than the actual bust itself,” he explains. Anas spends most of his time managing his team. “You have to captain the ship well,” he says. Dramatic confrontations are not the norm. Conveying this reality in an engaging manner was one of the challenges in making Chameleon. “We wanted to have this very fictionalized feel starting with the traditional opening case like a James Bond case that would throw us into this world,” Mullins says, “and then we would follow him through one of several cases throughout the film.”

Anas is hardly a stranger to being conflated with a mythical figure like James Bond. While his facial coverings obscure his likeness, they also serve as a cornerstone of his personal brand. In a sense, Anas is eminently recognizable, and has plans to become more so in the future. He plans to release a series of cartoons containing what he describes as, “some of the stories that I have done or will be doing in the future so that young children will study them in school.” This is all part of a larger plan to fight corruption by teaching children that their effort can result in social change. “It’s a big vision,” Anas says, “and this Chameleon film fits into it.”

It would be foolish on our part as journalists to decide to operate differently from what society needs.

It’s not initially clear where Chameleon fits into that vision. It may offer Anas a marginal increase in exposure, but he has reported stories for major outlets including Al Jazeera and CNN in the past. Moreover, Anas has shown little if any interest in serving Western audiences such as those who will watch Chameleon at Hot Docs.

“What was good about Ryan’s presence,” Anas finally says, his voice soft as ever, “Is that you’re in middle of this and questions are coming.” Mullins’ constant questions—“why are you doing that?”—acted as an added layer of accountability. “This is not to say that I lose sight of those facts when I do a story,” Anas adds, “but I’m saying Ryan’s presence brought it very close.”

That immediacy is most obvious in Chameleon’s final act, which sees policemen torch a village during a sting that Anas had planned. If Mullins hadn’t been there, Anas says, “It would have come up after a week when I’m having a meeting or even a month, and I can tell the police officer ‘Why did you burn the place?’” The presence of a camera does not allow for such delays. Anas has built a career on the idea that the camera can be an instrument of accountability and, in a small way, that idea was validated during the production of Chameleon. “Ryan is asking you the question there and then: ‘Give me an answer’,” Anas recalls. “It brings the reality closer to you.”