The notoriety of the web serial keeps growing as years pass, and more independent directors are drawn to the internet as a medium which provides experimental and more targeted dissemination models for streaming shows which are cheap and not as risky as big budget productions. Joss Whendon, ‘the George Lucas of television’ and the person behind television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been increasingly drawn to web series in recent years.
Aware of this thriving digital culture, Wilfried Ebene, a Cameroonian movie director living in France since 2001 decided to start a web serial entitled Tu Know Ma Life in 2014. This decision places him in the company of other directors like Jamaican-British Cecile Emeke, who evolve ‘outside the traditional scaffolding of Hollywood’.
Tu Know Ma Life relates the quotidian of young Cameroonians living in France, highlighting issues such as relationships, gossip, friendship, life’s challenges and culture shock. This is done in French and Camfranglais, a lingua franca which at once unites and alienates Cameroonian youths, but remains immensely popular despite criticism from language purists.
4 boys: Priso, Malep, Wafo, Medjo, and 5 girls: Carine, Diane, Gaelle, Faith, and Laetitia navigate a cultural space between Cameroon and France, while living in France and facing the challenges of its metropolitan cities as well as their daily challenges. Actually, the opening scene of Season 1 Episode 1, where Carine tells Priso about her journey by train, and about a passenger who kept staring at her aimlessly, is quite relevant. She goes further to say that the traveller went away after her boyfriend, Priso, got on the train. After listening to this, Priso quickly retorts, asking about the piece of paper with her phone number which she furtively gave the passenger. This confuses her, but she nevertheless gives him an answer. In a way, this scene sets the tone for the relationships which pervade this serial, from one night stands to on-again off-again lovers and unrequited affection.
Wilfried Ebene has always been drawn to social issues and human relationships. As far back as 2005, he was chosen by UNICEF to represent France in Gleneagles, Scotland. Today, he is a computer scientist and movie director, and his web series Tu Know Ma Life is highly reflective of Cameroon, with its multilingualism and variegated cultures.
The season premier has about 21, 000 views on YouTube, and though views alternate, the audience keeps growing bigger, such that after the season finale in January 2015, social media networks were flooded with requests for the date of a second season. In order to occupy their fans, You Talk, the YouTube Channel through which Tu Know Ma Life is streamed released another serial titled Dr NKante.
Wilfried’s web project started with a behind-the-scenes feature, introducing most of the characters in Tu Know Ma Life and each talked about the various roles they interpreted. These introductions give little facts about the actors in real life, an issue which the web serial itself ignores, as we aren’t given anything beyond their Christian names.
Web serials are not new to Cameroon cinematography and some consider Aicha Kamoise as a pioneer of the genre. The popularity of her web serial, Les Aventures Kamoises, probably accounts for her being cast as Eyenga in Le Blanc d’Eyenga 2, a role which she finally got.
Wilfried has been able to keep the viewers of his web serial glued to the internet even when the show is not in progress by constantly entertaining them with features such as behind-the-scenes, pseudo spin-offs, and finally a sequel, which was announced on May 29. In spite of this rising demand, web serials remain quite unpopular in Cameroon due to the low internet penetration rate and preference of cable networks.