The Highlights of Donald Glover and Rihanna’s “Guava Island”

Donald Glover’s latest mysterious, musical project Guava Island premiered this weekend after Glover’s Childish Gambino Coachella set and it’s simultaneously very satisfying as well as yet another tease for a larger amount of either Childish Gambino and/or Glover-Mirai material that we won’t be getting for who knows exactly how long. Fans of Glover’s Atlanta will enjoy Guava Island, as it utilizes one of the show’s writers, Stephen Glover, as well as its primary director Hiro Murai to craft that now-familiar Glover tone that mixes comedy with undertones of dread and very real danger, with splashes of surrealism or musicality all wrapped up and presented in some beautifully framed and lit images.


The short film (it’s a little less than an hour) is streaming on Amazon Prime, with the description calling it a “tropical thriller.” That may be partly true, particularly during the climax, but for the majority of these mostly enjoyable and beautiful 55 minutes, Guava Island is operating in full musical territory.

Guava Island was reportedly influenced by the 2002 Brazilian film City of God, and the crime and thriller elements can believably come from that film. However, for most of the time I was watching this I was reminded of another Rio de Janeiro film, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus from 1959. Donald Glover’s protagonist, Deni, in particular, carries echoes of Orfeu, the romantic hero who jokes and flirts his way around Rio with his guitar always in hand and a song ready on his lips. Although shot in Cuba, the look of Guava Island is reminiscent of Black Orpheus and its favelas and narrow streets brimming with music. Additionally, both stories feel something like a fairy tale or a myth (well, Orpheus is a literal myth), with Guava Island dedicating an entire animated sequence to the history of Guava’s creation and struggle, and both stories have their charming, musical heroes meet tragic ends.

There are many virtues to Guava Island, and lots to talk about depending on which facet you zero in on. Overall, though, there are some undeniably enjoyable moments that make this film worth watching. And so, in order of appearance, let’s run down the highlights of the Guava Island experience:


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