Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, released a celebration of Caribbean culture, black life and music in the form of his top secret movie, Guava Island, on April 12.
He released the movie in time with his Coachella performance on Amazon’s Prime Video for everyone not at Coachella to enjoy and it was indeed a pleasure to watch. The film was produced in secret over the course of a month in Havana, Cuba, and its production was only discovered because of a picture Rihanna took with a fan. Upon the film’s discovery, Gambino released a trailer with an unknown release date, now known to be Coachella weekend.
The movie is about the main character of Guava Island, Deni Maroon, and how he tries his best to successfully throw a festival to celebrate the island with its people, as everyone works all week, all day. He faces opposition from Red Cargo, played by Nonso Anozie, who wishes for everyone to work with no breaks.
The movie functions as a representation of Caribbean life, where the people are so busy working that they are unable to enjoy the beauty around them. Deni spends the entire movie playing Childish Gambino’s greatest hits (“Feels Like Summer,” “This Is America,” “Summertime Magic”) in an effort to help the people on the island celebrate and slow down from the fast-paced, monotonous life of working. In this way, the movie is not just a commentary on the culture, but a celebration of Gambino’s music and his voice; Deni, played by Donald Glover, spends most of the movie singing and dancing. His music is interspersed with actual song and dance from Afro-Caribbean people, especially at the end of the movie, which was beautiful to see.
My only grievance with the movie is the lack of Rihanna as Kofi, Deni’s girlfriend. She has no existence or relevance besides being Deni’s girlfriend and her entire plot seemed to hinge on how Deni would feel about her being pregnant. I find it hard to believe that a man as passionate and popular in Guava Island would be with a woman who has no existence other than working or interacting with him. Considering Rihanna is an iconic Caribbean, Barbadian figure herself, the movie could have benefited from the interspersing of her music as well, as a counterpoint to Deni/Gambino. Kofi felt sidelined, despite her seeming like the voice of Guava Island: her voice is the first one we hear, and the last.Guava Island was a beautiful and incredibly meaningful movie and I would recommend everyone to see it. I cannot spoil the ending, but it made me realize just how powerful Gambino continues to be as an artist and it’s clear how much he relates to Deni’s character. Gambino is just trying to get people to understand that we’re not just people, but a culture and can bond through music. His visual love letter to the Caribbean and its people was incredible to see and makes me long to go to Guava Island myself. In the words of Kofi, it seems to be the “center of the whole world.”