guava island
donald glover

Donald Glover is one artist who continually keeps amazing me. Earlier this week, the Emmy-winning Atlanta creator and musician unveiled a new project at Coachella. Guava Island debuted this week at Coachella as a lead-in to Glover’s headlining performance as his alter ego, Childish Gambino. Then, this past weekend, the film started streaming on Amazon, where Amazon Prime subscribers can take it all in. Let’s talk about how much of a secret this movie has been. In fact, the movie was kept largely under wraps until this week. This speaks volumes to Glover as an influencer and an artist.

Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, said she knew that she wanted to commit to the film after watching a four-and-a-half minute sizzle reel. The teaser that Salke saw arrived via a onetime viewing link that expired 30 minutes after Salke received it. She also said that she would have committed to the project sight unseen. Again – this speaks volumes to Glover as an artist. Salke states:

“I knew whatever he wanted to amplify would have relevance and be entertaining. He has that ability to create cultural moments and spread a message that’s interesting.”

Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios

Although the tone of the film is quite different from Glover’s previous projects, Guava Island still demands the same kind of attention. It’s a short film with a runtime of 54 minutes, but where Glover takes you within that short amount of time is quite a joy to watch. The film follows Deni Maroon (Glover), a charming and goofy musician with strong anti-capitalist leanings who wants to host a festival for the hardworking people of Guava. As his girlfriend, Kofi Novia, Rihanna is delightfully unimpressed with Deni’s songs and soapbox alike. Letitia Wright of Black Panther plays Yara Love, Kofi’s friend, though she’s not on-screen nearly enough. The three gallivant around a beautifully shot Havana, with bright clothing and even sunnier dispositions.

The film opens with an animated sequence, which demonstrates that Guava Island is an aesthetics-driven production. Director Hiro Murai’s attention to color and contrast is quite impressive. The colors alone will make you feel all kinds of emotions, but I say that in a good way. The animation tells the story of how Kofi and Deni met, and how the island came to be governed by a ruthless businessman named Red, played by Nonso Anozie.

This film was inspired by the Brazilian crime film City of God and Prince’s musical drama Purple Rain. What’s interesting about Guava Island is that there is a bit of political conflict at it’s core. Deni is frustrated by Red’s domination of the island’s impoverished workers, and often uses music to express how he feels about this particular situation.

What I do love (even if its a bit cheesy) is how Glover manages to bring “This is America” into the film, but spins it to be about Guava Island. More specifically, it’s about money, and how the workers on the island are in an impossible economic position.

The only downside to the film is the fact that it ends a little thin. That said, the film is fun and what some are calling breezy. This movie doesn’t have the same emotional depth as Atlanta, but it still demonstrates the kind of talent that Glover has when it comes to film making. Check out Guava Island on Amazon Prime Video now!