The dueling truth, love and war
A very, very long time ago, long before the birds, cars, and even coffee beans, the seven gods of the seven lands created the dueling truths, love and war… The opening line from legend of Guava Island – a magical place in the center of the world. When I first heard about Donald Glover’s secret project, won’t lie – I was really excited. There is no denial that I am very fond of Glover and his musical persona, Childish Gambino. He is a DJ, rapper, actor, comedian, director, producer and writer. In most cases being good at everything means that you’re not good at all. Glover continues to prove all of you wrong. Yes, all of you. I’m all in for my boo!
“You play the guitar, right?”
“Well, I like to think I do a little more than that.”
Donald Glover, 36 years old, born in United States of America (which is a concept! But will get to that later). I first “met” him as Childish Gambino, a controversial, boundary-breaking rapper with amazing vocal range, and trust me, I know nothing about signing, but the way he goes from high to low in 2 seconds… His lyrics are so bold, in the same time very smart and witty. If I had to pick my favorite album… That would be very hard, let’s just say that it depends on my mood: Because the Internet makes me overthink a lot, Awaken, my Love! is the ultimate zone-out record, Camp is the rebellious-Julie mode: on. Ohh, and how could I not mention Summer Pack, two songs that became my summer anthems for eternity.
March 15th, 2020. Glover drops new album online, took us all by surprise. Titled 3.15.20 is something we needed during this shitty time. It features one song from Summer Pack (Feels like summer, which is such a dope tune with amazing video, featuring famous rappers and black figures in culture). It fumes of Glover’s cleverness; most of the a track titles refer to the time at which they appear on the record, for example “32.22” appears 32 minutes and 22 seconds into the album. 3.15.20 deserves a short film and I will be more than happy to write the script, so…
Donald’s acting career started in TV Show called Community (which will land on Netflix on April 1st, YAY!). And let me tell you, I fell in love with this goofy, funny and real to the bone man! Hilarious, made ma laugh so much. In time, he “upgraded” his movie portfolio with such titles as The Martian where he played Rich Purnell (did YOU know that there is a scene where he slips and falls on the ground, picks himself up and leaves the room – this was unscripted but Ridley Scott decided to keep this take); Spider-Man: Homecoming playing Aaron Davies (WHO PROBABLY IS UNCLE OF MILES which could prove that there will be another Spider-Man, which is also supported in my review of Spider-Verse); Solo: A Star Wars Story with brilliant creation of young Lando Calrissian (I mean, THIS WAS THE BEST CASTING CHOICE IN YEARS, STAR WARS). Lastly, voiceover for adult Simba in newest version of The Lion King. Thank you very much.
Not to mention his (creator, producer, actor) award-winning TV Show called Atlanta, which is on the Ultimate TOP-10 TV shows of the decade (for me of course), but it’s so damn worth watching! Playing with surrealistic concepts in the setting of Atlanta rap scene, delivers ultimate proof, that Donald Glover is ahead of his time, ahead of all of us, ahead of the reality.
This place, so filled with magic of the gods and untouched by man’s hand.
Guava Island was kept low key by everyone. There was very little to know about it – secret project with Rihanna on board, thrilling story about liberation of oppressed people, enslaved by despotic work-giver. And we only knew that once the movie hit Amazon Prime. The one and only news that was heating up the Internet was that Glover and Rihanna are working together on a movie in Cuba. A mystery! We love those, right?
I didn’t know what to expect, but with Glover behind the wheel, I knew this it will be multi-dimensional, ambiguous and bold. I needed a day to let it sink in with me. See, it’s not just another movie, it’s an artistic statement.
The island itself was once a place that blossomed and bore fruit unlike any other place on Earth. The most amazing of all its bounty was the Clayworm, a creature only found on Guava Island. It spins the most beautiful blue silk man had ever seen. Every man who saw the silk fell in love with it. But wherever there is love, war will follow.
Deni Maroon, young and ambitious musician plans to throw a festival for people of the island. They work 7 days a week, coerced by Red – island tycoon. The idea of all night long musical feast doesn’t make him happy, no one would work on Sunday, if they party on Saturday. But Deni is a dreamer ahead of his time, like Childish Gambino, he wants to liberate people with art, with music and lyrics that bring them joy in the dull life.
America is a concept. Anywhere where, in order to get rich you have to make someone else richer, is America.
Glover’s film, directed by Hiro Murai, touches the problem of capitalism and relation, that black people especially have to it. Working your ass off, 7 days a week only to realize that there is not much in it for you, and you will be doing it for the rest of your life. They live in paradise, yet have no time on means to fully enjoy it. To live it! And what better song illustrates it than This is America?
Once Red family controlled the silk, they controlled the people of Guava. The antagonist, Red Cargo, wants his people to work and he will provide the minimum for survival. It has functioned for such a long time, no? Why change, if no one complains?
I really liked that idea, of America being a concept. Sure, this might be hurtful to my fellow American friends, but hear me out. If you think about it, US has always been the “dream” destination for EVERYONE. American dream… Filled with success, spotlight, money, fast cars and beautiful people. If you ask anyone, literally anyone, what is their definition of “American dream”, you will hear similar associations. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it only means how many people acutely made it in America. How many successful people became role models to young dreamers. Hell, even I want to make it there. One way or another (though with the virus out there it may be difficult).
Something’s changed over the years though – people are more down-to-Earth these days. But not Donald Glover, not Childish Gambino. Guava Island is a myth, a story built around a musician – maybe it’s Gambino’s origin story, where he is reintroduced as Deni Maroon; who understands the island’s true purpose and see its real beauty.
And Guava Island is exactly that – a dream.
You feel like Summer time.
You took this heart of mine, You’ll be mine Valentine in the summer, in the summer! This is one of the sweetest tunes ever. Love song, really. Part of Summer pack released prior to the movie, tells a beautiful story.
The movie is narrated by Rihanna, who plays Kofi – Deni’s girlfriend. Childhood love, growing every day since the moment they met. Kofi was the “grounded” one. She wanted to escape the island, but Deni… He loved the people and would give anything to be loved in return. He wanted to write a song that would unite the people of the island even if just for one day.
But that’s what makes Kofi love him. The scene on a beach, lunch break for them. Deni finally finished the song he was writing for her. With the help of local musicians, he performs vocal Valentine that warms even the coldest hearts. Their relationship at this point is quite complicated though, as both of them have a lot on their plates. Deni, working in the docks and radio station; Kofi working in a sewing room, pregnant… Which he has no idea about. His mind is fixed on the festival, even though going against Red is extremely dangerous. Kofi, being the typical woman (high five, lady), doesn’t want to bother him with the pregnancy. She knows how much the festival means to him, but is very worried about the potential tragic outcome.
We got our day.
I really thought that “short film” will be too short, but everything important was said in those 56 minutes. Which, I’m not gonna lie, was a big surprise. Glover’s message, short and to the point, left me complete, but deeply disturbed. Like I said, I needed a day to let it settle in my mind and heart. Artistical statement and cry for help – to all of us, not appreciating the beauty of art, the liberation that comes from it; only paying attention to the capitalist dream or… Being part of someone else’s dream.
Cuban landscape is magical and for sure is added aesthetic value. Makes you want to visit those colorful streets with local performers doing what they love.
Guava Island is a project, that needs equally relevant follow up – I’m not talking about sequels, but more stories like that. Glover is a genius and it must be unleashed from time to time. His creativity know no bounds, so I am hopeful, that he won’t stop with just one short movie. There are more important stories to be told.