A master of the rise, Guava Island illustrates just what Donald Glover has been continuously striving to communicate to his fellow dreamers to keep fighting for their dreams by using himself, his music, and his culture to convey this message.
**Spoiler Alert** Guava Island was created by the Seven Gods as a sanctuary for people to live free from the ever-dueling nature of love and war. On the island was an abundance of clayworm , which produced the most beautiful blue silk ever known to man.
“Every single man who saw the silk fell in love with it, but wherever there is love, war will follow,” narrates Kofi, played by Rihanna. The Gods turned their backs on the island after it became polluted with greed and the people of the island were left to fend for themselves under the rule of the Red family, who controlled the entire production of the silk. Many years later young dreamer and local musician Dani (Danny Glover) sets out to host a festival for the people, but the festival promises too much enjoyment and hope for Red (Nonso Anozie), the current boss of the island. Seen as a beacon of freedom and hope to the people of Guava Island, Dani is forced to choose between his life and his desire to serve his people through his art.
Hiro Murai’s Guava Island promises optimism in the face of the harsh realities of life. With a star-studded cast including Rhianna (do I really need to cite her accomplishments?), Letitia Wright (Black Panther), and Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, this film encompasses the nature of post-colonial storytelling in the modern age.
Visually, the film is a testament to the beautiful nature of the Caribbean islands. It was filmed in Cuba and the people of the island are given the opportunity to shine in their own ways. The people speak with their native accents and some speak in Spanish. The buildings and houses on island are run down and humble with bursts of vegetation all around.
The people playing music on the streets and beaches, the children singing in churches, the sweatshops and laundry-rivers are lively and poetically mesmerizing. Everyone is gorgeous, natural, and distinctive. On the other had, the narrative of the film highlights the struggle of claiming such a beautiful existence as one’s own when others are constantly trying to take it away in one manner or another.
There are two struggles taking place in the film: the war between the artist and their reality and the war between the oppressed and the oppressor. In the history of post-colonial studies, the artists whose ancestors have been colonized and oppressed work to regain and relearn what was erased and lost through time; again these artists are faced with the struggle between the self and their place on the grand scheme of things versus their class and the classes that suppress their people.
In the film, Dani promises to hold a festival, which will require all the factory workers of the island to take the weekend off. Dani justifies taking the day off a day as something owed to them for working non-stop for Red’s factories. This does not sit well with Red, who gives Dani an ultimatum. Either cancel the festival and leave the island or die. Dani ultimately chooses his dream that he also considers his duty, which is to give the people a day to celebrate themselves and their culture. The price for this decision is being killed during his performance. The following day Red expects everyone to be working, but instead finds his factories empty and all the people on the streets. The death of Dani sparks a revolution. “We got our day.” Kofi tells Red as she passes him on the street.
It is up to the artist to lead the revolution, the radicals who will stand fearless before those who oppress them. Yet, the fearless only stand tall when they love themselves, and those around them. It is love that inspires people to fight for what means the most to them. Glover embodies this sentiment with Dani, who breaks out into song and dance often during the film. All the music in the film is Glover’s original music as Childish Gambino, and with the music he incorporates the most precious element of the narrative, love. The viewer understands his love for Kofi and for his people through the music he sings and how he performs for them. Dani is expressive, adorable, and full of love and is beloved in return, which is why his death makes the revolution irresistible to the people of the island.
Guava Island sheds a bright light in the face of darkness, entertaining and mystical from beginning to end. It’s simply a tale that reminds us dreamers to keep dreaming for the love of it all. With love comes war, with love comes passion, passion generates dreams and, as Kofi narrates, “in the end, what else do we have but dreams?”
By Stephanie Hinojosa