Accepted paper:

The happy ending to be found: Douala and its popular videos


Giovanna Santanera (Università di Milano Bicocca)

Paper short abstract:

I will explore how Douala popular video production questions urban life. While I argue that the videomakers are committed to the promotion of social and moral change, I also contend that the hardships of their everyday life penetrate in their works, infusing a sense of immobilism and hopelessness.

Paper long abstract:

Douala is not only the economic hub of Cameroon, but it is also a lively cultural center. In addition to the internationally renowned public artworks sponsored by the ngo doual'art, it is stage for a myriad of more popular art initiatives -- low-cost digital films and TV series, theatre performances, musics and video clips -- made by ordinary people, such as teachers, petty-traders, bookkeepers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, and itinerant peddlers. In this paper, I will focus on digital films and TV series, locally known as "histoires de société" [stories of society], in order to show how they question and re-imagine collective life. While I argue that the film practitioners - like the public art promoters -- are committed to the construction of a better city, I also contend that the hardships of their everyday life penetrate in their works, undermining their efforts to visualize better prospects. Within this framework, I will first show that the videos denounce the local social desegregation, through didactic stories that screen the ruin of selfish characters, driven by economic interests; then I will take into consideration the lack of happy endings to claim that the videos fall short in indicating positive alternative ways of behaviors; I will conclude that the videos express both common people's dissatisfaction with the status quo and a widespread feeling of disillusion and hopelessness, which strongly resonates with the broader Cameroonian political scenery.

panel P093
Cameroonian cities: conviviality and contradictions