Review: Guava Island Is a Pretty Good Childish Gambino Music Video and a Pretty Bad Movie


Sheldon PearceContributing Writer Rap10 hrs agoShare on Facebook Share on Twitter Open share drawer As Donald Glover was headlining Coachella as Childish Gambino this weekend, he was also simultaneously launching another festival: In the new movie Guava Island, which premiered on the Coachella grounds Thursday night before streaming on Amazon Prime following the Childish Gambino set Friday night, Glover plays Deni Maroon, an idealist musician trying to bring a day of festivity to his otherwise overworked island community. Produced by much of the creative team behind Glover’s hit series “Atlanta,” including director Hiro Murai and screenwriter Stephen Glover (Donald’s brother), the 55-minute-long feature isn’t really a “tropical thriller,” as it’s described in official promotional language.

It’s really more of a very long commercial for Childish Gambino songs dressed up as a love story centered around a labor conflict in a tainted wonderland. While gorgeous to look at, the film gets too bogged down in romantic, albeit somewhat witless, ideas about overcoming those who’d pave paradise to put up a parking lot. Through narration (and animation), Kofi (Rihanna) opens the film by recounting a story her mother told her every night at bedtime: a long time ago, the gods created Guava, a paradise that bore rare silks produced by rare creatures called clayworms.

Inevitably, though, capitalism invaded: The Red family took control of Guava’s silk industry and became the nation’s plutocrats. As the ruling class, they replaced this Shangri-La with enterprise, spreading greed among the people and tarnishing much of the island’s natural beauty. (The vibrant and colorful opening animated sequence, which, as it turns out, establishes nearly all of the plot, is a highlight of the film.

) Guava has since become home to a repressed people of a West Indian-like islet culture where they speak both English and Spanish. (The movie was shot in Cuba.) Deni longs to write a song that unites them and reminds everyone of the magic Guava once had, the same magic Kofi’s mother told stories of, even if for only one day.

Deni works at Red’s Cargo, the export arm of the silk operation, headed by Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie) and also hosts a popular local radio broadcast.

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