Donald Glover’s ‘Guava Island’ compares and contrasts cultures

Donald Glover, as free-spirited as ever, took the stage at Coachella wearing white linen pants, rocking an overly liberal beard on Friday evening. With full intentions of his performance being a soulful trip for the festivalgoers, he spoke to his crowd. “Tonight is a spiritual night, we need to feel each other,” he told the large congregation at one point early in his set, commanding that everyone “put your phones down. This is church up in here.”

Although this movie lacks character development and run-time, while the plot seems like it’s missing a key portion of its climax, this movie speaks volumes. Donald’s brother, Stephen wrote Guava’s Island and one of Donald’s regular collaborators, Hiro Murai directed it.

This movie is about oppression by an exploitative monopoly. It exposes and breaks down a nation ran by capitalism. The underlying message through this movie suggests that America is no better than this third world Carribean island. Kofi (played by Rihanna) was a textiles worker on the island and Deni (played by Glover) was a cheerful musician and mediocre dock worker. Kofi and Deni were in a relationship and Kofi had dreams of living in America one day.

On the contrary, Deni told a colleague at the docks that America is concept. His colleague had aspirations to start a new life in America. “Anywhere where in order to get rich you have to make someone else richer is America.” This statement provides an apparent parallel to Childish Gambino’s hit single “This is America,” from last year.

The making of this movie seems a bit arbitrary of the Glover brothers. It didn’t fit into your typical model for a movie but weirdly enough, in typical Donald Glover fashion, he made it an intriguing story in his own way.

Another quite obvious comparison from this movie was the juxtaposition between the two festivals; Coachella and the secret musical festival he threw for Guava Island.

The secret festival Deni threw for the island stuck with poverty was viewed as an escape from their average day of working for an oppressive leader. The people were prisoners of the moment for once. But at Coachella, Glover had to persuade the crowd to do the same thing, live in the moment, asking them to fight the urge to broadcast the experience. As we saw clips from his live performance on social media, many in the crowd couldn’t resist the urge. That alone fed into the underlying message from the film Guava Island. It was a short movie, not even an hour long but it’s message resonated with me and will highlight someone of America’s biggest flaws, just like Gambino’s 2018 hit.

A. Suave Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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