When Donald Glover and the director Hiro Murai collaborate on a brand new challenge, expectations are naturally sky excessive.
After all, Murai has directed most of the key episodes of Glover’s Emmy-winning sequence, “Atlanta,” in addition to the music video for “This Is America,” the Grammy-winning track Glover recorded as his musical alter ego, Childish Gambino.
But with their first feature-length effort, “Guava Island,” you had the sense that Glover and Murai had been making an attempt to minimize these expectations. The movie, which is available in at a brisk 54 minutes, was shot in Cuba final yr and stored below wraps till this week. That isn’t straightforward to do when your star is so well-known and his love curiosity is performed by Rihanna.
[“Guava Island” was launched after Donald Glover’s Coachella set as Childish Gambino.]
And although any movie pageant on the earth would have coveted Murai’s first characteristic, “Guava Island” as an alternative debuted Thursday night time on the Coachella campgrounds in California, the place Glover will headline the location’s music pageant as Childish Gambino. Shortly after his set concludes on Friday night time, the movie is to start streaming on Amazon, beginning Saturday at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
So what is that this thriller challenge about? “Guava Island” is a music-driven fable that follows Deni (Glover), a happy-go-lucky singer who believes that music has the ability to unite the squabbling residents of his tiny island. He guarantees his girlfriend, Kofi (Rihanna), that he can write a track as lovely as she is, although Kofi is skeptical. “No song is that beautiful,” she boasts. (Letitia Wright, a.ok.a. Shuri in “Black Panther,” additionally seems, however she doesn’t have many strains.)
The plot is slight: A shady island tycoon named Red (Nonso Anozie) tries to stop Deni from placing on a music pageant, reasoning that if folks go see the younger man carry out that night time, they’re liable to skip work at Red’s sweatshops the subsequent day. And although Rihanna doesn’t have a lot to do as Glover’s girlfriend, the 2 at the very least share a spiky chemistry: Glover is keen to please, whereas Rihanna stays ever arduous to impress.
But the main attraction here is something that had been kept secret until Thursday night’s screening: Glover uses “Guava Island” to restage and remix some of his biggest recent songs.
“America is a concept,” Deni tells his fellow workers before leading them in a rendition of “This Is America” that finds new context for many of the video’s familiar, unsettling dance moves. Other musical sequences are set to Childish Gambino songs like “Saturday” and “Summertime Magic,” which is repurposed as a beachside serenade for Rihanna. (Alas, she is a mere spectator instead of Glover’s duet partner.)
Glover has said that “Guava Island” was inspired by films as disparate as “Purple Rain” and “City of God,” though it also shares a restless creative ambition with recent visual albums from Janelle Monáe and Beyoncé. Monáe will perform just before Glover on the Coachella stage Friday night, while Beyoncé dominated the festival last year with a career-spanning performance captured for her coming Netflix documentary “Homecoming.”
For top-tier artists looking to make a grand statement, there remains no place like Coachella. But as “Guava Island” shows, sometimes you can say just as much about your intentions by springing a sly surprise on the way.