“Guava Island”: A Refreshing Musical Short Film

Sophia Strathman, Radical Reviewer


“Guava Island” stars Donald Glover and Rihanna in a powerful story in which art, music, and love live amidst the brutal circumstances of living which citizens of the island must endure. The musical short-film is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The new musical short-film “Guava Island”, which premiered on April 11 at Coachella, feels like Summer. Aiming to remind us of the small pleasures of life through art, music, and a heartfelt story, it evokes viewers to cherish every moment they have the opportunity to spend living.


Director Hiro Murai captivates viewers right away a with beautiful animation in the film’s prologue and later uses skilled cinematography to capture a darker and more real element in spite of the seemingly light, tropical lense the fable appears to hold towards the beginning.


The picture, taking place on the so-called paradise of Guava Island, ultimately strives to encompass what it means to live in America and many other countries today through the depiction of a capitalistic society where “in order to get rich, you have to make someone else richer.” Musician Deni, played by Donald Glover (otherwise known as Childish Gambino), goes through extreme measures to play a concert for the people of Guava Island against the wishes of the Red family, led by dictator Red Cargo (Nonso Ananzi) who believes that people won’t go to work on Sunday if they stay up to listen.


The portrayal of hardships one encounters when striving to achieve freedom and happiness is also portrayed through co-star Rihanna’s character, Kofi, who must endure working in a sweatshop where those in control will resort to anything to ensure that money is made and residents keep working. The island is full of these factories, and they are all ruled by the Red family.


The film is excellent in weaving Childish Gambino’s music into the storyline, too, featuring songs “Summertime Magic”, “This is America”, and “Feels like Summer” as well as new songs made specifically for the film.


Stephen Grover writes a plot that may appear simple but is crafted in such a way that allows for a plethora of thematic interpretation. The way Grover wrote the screenplay gives the audience more to pick up on each time they watch it, and Murai did a brilliant job conveying a larger significance through imagery within the story such as the birds which surround Red Cargo in cages as he eats his breakfast, and the bird Deni sees at a pivotal moment in time, both of which are connected and surely symbolize imprisonment and then freedom.


My only critique would be that I want more. The film, running just under an hour, left me yearning for further detail and closure. I think the movie could have further utilized its talented cast (including Rihanna and Letitia Wright, who acted in Black Panther) to dive even deeper into issues of oppression and corruption within corporate America today. Even still, the story was invigorating, and the end connected everything together, leaving the audience with a lot to think about. The elements of artistry and thoughtful messages brought to the table make for a quality short film.


Overall, the musical short-film is worth watching at least once, particularly for Childish Gambino fans as he is great in the short, but I would say for anyone who has the time and is interested in a present-day commentary of capitalism in American society. However, beyond these ideas, I think everyone could use a reminder to be grateful and enjoy every moment of our lives because life itself is a paradise we have all been granted.