Songs of Ubong Is A Lush, Poetic Cinema Fantasy

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Songs of Ubong directed by Adenrele Owen Olowu, was made over the course of an evening in the house of veteran actor, Wale Ojo. The process fits in beautifully into the theme of the festival, ‘Less is More’,

The film is  a 12-minute-long visual poem shot in a dazzling monochrome. The 4:3 aspect ratio is not only effective during the extreme close-ups and inserts, but also proves to be efficient during the wide shots as well. The director’s philosophy is that film is all about the visual art representation, and this is evident from the opening shots which appear like a collection of moving postcards set to music, drawing the attention of the audience to the serene setting.

The vegetation appears lush even in black-and white, and the sound of the wind whistling through the leaves is a sweet lullaby. A woman (Rhoda Morakinyo) is sitting in a house, cross-legged, reading a book in silence while a gardener (Wale Ojo) stands in the yard. He seems on edge and deep in thought, eyes turned skyward, waiting for something to happen; anything. He storms off all of sudden to another part of the house as if he’s been hit with a great epiphany.

Songs of Ubong is described as a poetic demonstration of the Songs of Solomon, a collection of poems in the Bible between a young woman and her lover, thought to be King Solomon. Here, Wale Ojo’s Ubong seems to be in love with the madam of the house, a love that has consumed him so much that he regularly stops mid-work to serenade her with words culled directly from the Songs of Songs. His professions of love are always cut short though by the madam who never fails to send jolts of reality his way— everything from a confused stare to “Ubong, what are you doing,” to a searing slap followed immediately by one command: wake up!

The director splices these scenes with passages from poems such as The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and they tell their own story. It is up to the audience to decide if the madam has similar feelings for her gardener. Praise needs to be accorded here to Wale Ojo who switches effortlessly between the bold sweet-tongued lovestruck man and the gardener, Ubong, timid and seemingly uncomfortable in his own skin.

“My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts/ My beloved is to me as a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En Gedi,” he recites about halfway through and the screen almost lights on fire. Poetry is primarily aural and his rendition of the verses is music to the ears.

The cinematography and sound design work in tandem to first create and then douse the audience in the romantic atmosphere of the film. Olowu’s camera is always on the move, either zooming into objects and faces or backing away from them; its gaze seems to wander but there is a deliberateness to the way the film is put together. Songs of Ubong for all its sense of romantic realism does not have an inauthentic bone in its body.

Artistically, it occupies that nebulous space at the intersection of theatre, avant-garde cinema, fantasy and dreams.

Osamudiamen Joseph


  1. Osamudiamen Joseph, your article about the short film songs of Ubong directed by Adenrele Owen Olowu is a master piece. The movie cannot be better praised than you have seamlessly done. Thank you and congratulations to my brother Adenrele Owen Olowu, this is just the beginning of the winning, more wins to come.

  2. […] The winning short film, Songs of Ubong, would happen during a courtesy visit to actor Wale Ojo’s house, which provided him with enough ingredients to undertake the impromptu project, which also stars his fiancée (Rhoda Morakinyo), the interest of Wale Ojo’s desires. Was Owen Olowu actually prepared for this event or wasn’t he? Well, moving around like an “assassin”, and thanks to his thorough education and deep interest in multiple departments of filmmaking, made the shooting of the film a case of being at the perfect place at the right time— gallantly and stylistically and poetically put together as a black and white short described by Osamudiamen Joseph as a lush, poetic cinema fantasy. […]

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