- 16 Apr 19
Shrouded in mystery, Childish Gambino’s latest project signals the end of an era for the rap moniker.
Since a single photograph of Donald Glover (Childish Gambino, to many) and Rihanna surfaced back in August of 2018, the public have been speculating as to what they could have been working on. Theories came in the form of a collaborative track, a visual album and - more accurately - a feature-length film.
Premiering at Coachella and swiftly followed by an 18-hour free streaming period on Amazon, the enigmatic ‘Guava Island’ came in the form of a 55-minute fusion of film and musical.
The animated opening scene illustrates the creation of Guava Island, intended by the seven gods to act as a solace from the two duelling truths: love and war. Interference by the hands of man meant that this paradise became tarnished by greed and distrust. “Wherever there is love”, Rihanna’s character Kofia Novia narrates, “war will follow.”
Shifting from vibrant illustrations to an even more vibrant live action scene, we are introduced to Deni Maroon, Gambino’s character. Deni is wholeheartedly optimistic, seeking to one day unite the people of Guava through his music. He visibly energises those in his path and has pledged that he will host a festival to remind everyone of the island’s magic.
The movie is pieced together through song, offering greater context for some of Gambino’s finest works, including ‘This is America’, ‘Summertime Magic’ and ‘Feels Like Summer’. Fused with on-location sounds, each song is revamped to hold a distinctly Guavan feel.
They live in a repressed capitalist society, working 7-day weeks at the hands of Red Cargo. This is the second dichotomy we come across in the film. Deni’s festival is inhabited by an army of people wearing blue, feeling as free as ever at this celebration of life. When shots are fired and tragedy ensues, the overwhelming sadness is offset by celebration. In a rebellion against Red, the blue inhabitants of Guava are united in their bliss.
Bare walls and back alleys, this film is simultaneously grainy and refined. Directed by long-time Glover collaborator Hiro Murai, the film is cinematically and stylistically intriguing. It emanates a heat and an urgency which deliver a visually exciting, aesthetic paradise.
Being a fan of Gambino, it is easy to appreciate this project, but it is not without some apparent flaws. Casting the powerful talents of Rihanna and Black Panther’s Letitia Wright into under-utilised, sub-par roles is a disservice to both the actors and the project as a whole. To have Rihanna co-star in a quasi-musical without appearing on the soundtrack should be a cardinal sin. I digress...
When Donald Glover announced back in 2017 that his next album would be the last released under the Childish Gambino pseudonym, his devoted fans were distraught. His power to transform and evolve, transcending genres and continuing to excite, embodied an era.
However, Guava Island is a vivid, stimulating movie with a captivating and seamless soundtrack. It serves as a fantastic landmark to signal the end of the Gambino era. It’s been a pleasure.
With plenty of acting experience in his arsenal and much more in the pipeline, the face of Donald Glover will be as prominent as ever.
Stream Guava Island on Amazon Prime Video.