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An Analysis of Rihanna & Childish Gambino's Film Guava Island

The long-anticipated film debuted last week at Coachella

An Analysis of Rihanna & Childish Gambino's Film Guava Island The long-anticipated film debuted last week at Coachella

Last weekend during Coachella, Rihanna and Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) finally released their long-awaited musical film Guava Island. The film, written by Childish Gambino’s brother Stephen Glover, was first teased late last year during a private screening at Donald Glover’s mini-film festival in New Zealand. For the film, Donald Glover collaborates with director Hiro Murai, who he previously worked with on the release of their acclaimed comedy-drama TV series Atlanta two years ago. 

Guava Island’s 54-minute storyline is set in Havana, Cuba and features Rihanna and Childish Gambino as a couple. Gambino’s character Deni is a local celebrity musician with strong anti-capitalist beliefs who is in love with his exasperated girlfriend Kofi, played by Rihanna who is delightfully unimpressed with her boyfriend’s musical endeavours. The plot revolves around the couple’s love story and develops politically dramatic undertones when Deni aims to put on a music festival in an attempt to unite the people of the island. This attempt is soon overshadowed by corrupt businessman Red’s domination of the island and it’s impoverished workers as he is in disagreement with Glover’s idea. Frustrated by Red’s defiance and the dictatorship of the island, throughout the film, Deni uses music as an escape from the capitalistic environment in which he lives. 

When one of the characters suggests moving to America for a better life, Deni responds with the line, “This is America. Guava is no different than any other country. America is a concept. Anywhere in order to get you to have to make someone else richer is America.” This leads into an a capella rendition of Gambino’s Grammy-winning single This Is America released early last year, which speaks to the capitalistic and in many ways racist nature and tendencies of American culture. Given Childish Gambino’s reputation, it is no surprise that he uses the film to tackle such controversial issues. Aside from his This Is America single, Gambino is one of the musicians who is known for using music to confront politics and social affairs, which is very similar to his character Deni. The film’s message is very much about hostile political and economic climates and using music as a vessel to resolve or escape from this. In many ways, this plot resembles the infamous storyline behind Bob Marley’s 1976 Smile Jamaica concert. Especially noting that like Bob Marley’s concert, the film eventually concludes with the threat of violence. 

Although Rihanna is no musical powerhouse, being a celebrated musician, many had expected the singer to perform in at least one of the musical numbers, therefore it was a bit disappointing to discover she was not featured doing what she does best, despite opportunities for duets. Although it may seem selfish, the film’s plot is centred around Gambino’s character as a martyr for his community. This sort of seemed egotism may, however, be strategic peek into something bigger as the artist revealed last year that he soon plans on retiring his Childish Gambino stage character after his upcoming and final fourth studio album.

One can now view the full-length film with a subscription to Amazon Prime Video.