Guava Island is directed by Hiro Murai, and was released in 2019. The film was produced by Donald Glover, Fam Udeorji, Carmen Cuba, and Jennifer Roth. A lot of the music in this movie was written and performed by Donald Glover (his music produced under the alter ego “Childish Gambino”) as well as music also composed by Michael Uzowuru. Guava Island features actors and actresses: Donald Glover, Rihanna, Letitia Wright, and Nonso Anozie. Childish Gambino’s music in Guava Island (the album for the movie) has been added to Donald Glover’s collection of Grammy award winning music. this film speaks volumes about the oppression of society and peoples, and capitalist societies that feed off of productivity of laborers and abusing of their power. As well as it touches upon the many socio-political themes about class and the power struggle.
Deni Maroon (Donald Glover/Childish Gambino) and Kofi Novia (Rihanna) are two of the many residents of Guava Island. Guava Island was an island paradise created by ancient Gods away from the war and violence of the rest of the world. But eventually, evil will somehow always find a way to soil things. The island is industrialized and parallels and orwellian-esque capitalist society, similar to America. Where all the people are oppressed of their rights and freedoms under the guise of living in “paradise” while they slave away for their tyrant-dictator like “boss” in sweat factories. Making little money, the only joy and escape they have is through Deni’s music and dancing. Red, (Nonso Anozie) their Boss and marxist-shaped leader who feeds off the workers’ productivity, allows Deni to play his music on a company owned radio station that all Guava Island listens too. Deni plans a rebellion amd encourages the workers to walk out and have fun for a night at a festival planned by Deni, who would perform and inevitably be murdered by Red for hosting an illegal festival, dying as a musical martyr. Causing the workers to revolt and free themselves from oppression. The plot is a symbol of capitalist America today, and how our “usefulness” and “productivity” is exploited and abused by higher ups.
There were not very many fancy camera techniques, as most of the focus of the film was on context and content. However, there were a few basic angles/shots that added significance to the scene it was used, mostly as subtle symbolism. There was a high angle (20:00) in the scene where Deni is called in to speak to Red at his mansion in lieu of the illegal festival that got leaked to him through Intel. This contrasts the power dynamics between the two, as Deni is a lowly worker for Red, who is wealthy and in charge. As well as in 35:06 there are a series of connected cut away shots of radios all over Guava Island, playing the same song (Deni’s song) symbolising the unity of the lower class people on the island coming together.
Another really good shot was at 40:00 near the climax of the movie there were another series of cut away shots between Deni and Kofi (Donald Glover and Rhianna) because she now realizes her lover is going to die as a martyr for the cause, and Deni simply does not care, he was aware of the consequences of going against Red’s wishes. He is just focused on his mission to musically liberate the people of Guava Island. He even refers to it as a “Celebration of Life” which also serves doubly as a foreshadowing mechanism in the literal meaning, but also a celebration of the idea of being alive and living and feeling alive for one night.
Sound Effects and Music:
Music is a recurring theme in this film, so music plays a major role, as the main part and the climax of the film take place at the long awaited “concert” that is supposed to be kept secret because it is illegal. Music is often used as a storytelling tool and to express emotion, and ideas, as well as set the atmosphere in many settings throughout this film. Music is also a driving vehicle for change. This can be seen At 26:38 when Deni performs a song on the behalf of his significant other Kofi to profess his love for her. Music is symbolic of rising up from oppression, seeing as music on Guava Island is monitored and in some cases prohibited because it lessens the worker’s (exploited poor laborers “Employed” by Red) productivity. During the climax of the movie, at the illegal festival, (42:15) Deni is onstage clearly spots Red in the crowd concealing a weapon, but pretends not to notice because this was the plan all along. He wants Red to murder him so he can die as a musical martyr and inspire a rebellion to liberate the peoples of Guava Island. Deni accepts his role as a tragic hero. This is paralleled with the music becoming gradually chaotic and the wide dramatic crazed look in Deni’s eyes.
All of the settings in this film are very intricate. And what separates this particular film from most is that it is so short (about the length of an extended TV episode) and even within a tight timeframe, the creators fit in so many different sets for many different settings and atmospheres in this film, that also often added to the mood, and the symbolic layer of this film. We see this notoriously in the warehouse (15:20) where it is set to look almost akin to a sweatshop. It’s dusty, hot, and you’re forced to work like a dog. This is also paralleled in the women’s “seamstress” factory (sweatshop) (30:22). But through decor and careful selection of objects and color scheme, socio-political symbolism is depicted through color. I.e. items or clothing. Kofi and Deni wear mixtures of all the class colors (red, yellow and blue) (red being the color for reds employees, blue for the lower class, and yellow for the wealthy) because they are caught in between social classes and the power struggle. This can also be witnessed when Red’s house is shown on picture, (18:00) a beautiful mansion with birds in cages lining the patio (a symbol for the oppressed citizens) and yellow covering every room in decor and in color floor to ceiling. This is in comparison to Deni’s small and humble hut-like abode which clearly is not as glamorous as Red’s mansion.
There is a lot of dancing (and a few musical numbers) throughout this film. Mostly traditional/tribal dances that are interpretive and symbolic. These dances universally connect all cultures, especially resonating with the oppressed, who are bound by either societa/political/economic “law” or by a tyrannical government/leader. A fairly easy to spot example of a traditional dance performed in this film is during “This is America” (15:23) and 29:22 where Rhianna and Donald Glover do a dance together after Deni (Donald Glover) serenades Kofi and professes his love to her in a romantic beach scene.
Murai, H. K. (Director), & Glover, D., Udeorji, F., Cuba, C., & Roth, J. (Producers). (2019). Guava Island [Motion picture on Online release]. United States: Amazon Studios/Amazon Prime.