Fans of Atlanta will enjoy Guava Island (2019), a short feature on Amazon Prime from the same creative team. Donald Glover stars as Deni, a musician on the vaguely Caribbean fictional island of Guava. Deni is a free spirit who wants nothing more than to bring joy and music to the world. Unfortunately, Guava is ruled by Red (Nonso Anozie), the powerful magnate who runs the textile and transportation industries that dominate the island economy. Red isn’t pleased when Deni arranges a music festival that looks like it might disrupt production, and moves to put a stop to it—but that only makes Deni more determined to have his concert and give the people a night to remember.
Guava Island looks slight, but packs a punch. Its narrative framework plays out like an extended music video, designed to allow Glover to showcase his songs, which blend soul and rap. The breezy, affected style is relaxing and infectious, and while I’m mostly indifferent to the music, it’s impossible not to respect Glover’s gonzo showmanship. But the bright, light-hearted feel sets you up for a serious message, a mix of humor and darkness that taps into themes not dissimilar to those explored on Atlanta. “America is a concept,” Deni says. “Anywhere where in order to get rich, you have to make someone else richer, is America.” Glover clearly has a creative vision in his work, which he shares with the film’s writer Stephen Glover and its director Hiro Murai. Guava Island is an interesting, finely rendered example of the creative team’s sensibility.