Donald Glover and the secret musical Rihanna – Variety

Last summer, Donald Glover made his way to Cuba to create something – a collaboration in a feature film, rumored to be based on little information other than the photo of Glover and Rihanna taken during the production of their mysterious project "Guava Island".

Creation is what Glover does best, constantly redefining the public's ideas about what he's capable of and how he chooses to express himself: From his roots as a sketch artist (Derrick Comedy) and comedy writer (serving as a history editor on "30 Rock") to an already very diverse acting career (which started with "Community" and allowed his work as creator, showrunner and star of the series FX "Atlanta"), Glover is constantly moving away when the momentum seems the most important to try his luck at a new challenge.

This could explain the otherwise confusing claims that her most popular invention to date has been withdrawn, her warped hip-hop alter ego, Childish Gambino. Now, after eight months of speculation about this silent film unfolding in the background of Childish Gambino's latest tour, the secret is unveiled. Earlier this week, Glover finally unveiled "Guava Island" at Coachella, which allowed her to play a dramatic role in her flagship show on Friday at the music festival. A few hours after Childish Gambino went on stage, Amazon took part in what was about to become a cultural event, airing the film for free for 18 hours on Saturday, after which it could only be viewed via its video service. Amazon Prime subscription.

No matter what Glover fans had in mind, "Guava Island" may not be what they expected. Just 55 minutes later, the film serves as a shorter and narrower "Purple Rain", a self-mythologizing origin story of the artist formerly Childish Gambino, reintroduced here under the name of Deni Maroon. Romo reggaeton to the fight, Deni is determined to impress his childhood love Kofi Novia (Rihanna) via the perfect song. Prince may have been an inspiration, but the film directed by a musician "Guava Island" looks more like Jimmy Cliff's classic "The Harder They Come", placing Deni as a similar kind of rebellious hero, risking his life for A good music festival on an island where a thug named Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie, who plays his nasty like a perverted charm) forces everyone to work seven days a week in its sweatshops.

Designed and directed by Atlanta-based Hiro Murai, "Guava Island" contains less music than one would expect, but opens and ends with a new song, setting off a five-minute animated prologue with the Caribbean-inspired ballad »Die With You. "The following visuals are bright pop-art and nostalgic picture books, presented in an almost square format, like an old TV, against which Rihanna tells the story of Guava Island (whose shape resembles that of Hispaniola, who is similarly divided in the center) and the desire of a lifetime of his own character to leave this fallen paradise.

Acting has never been Rihanna's business, and when the film cuts it, it's impossible to ignore one of the fundamental limitations of "guava island": it should sing rather than settle for to play Deni's love interest. Maybe at one point, it was what was planned. Certainly, there are places in the film where Rihanna's songs might have gone, including an awkward cut halfway through her "Summertime Magic" serenade while she should have responded to Deni, potentially transforming the catchy but familiar single from 2018 into a more robust duo. Instead, we mostly see her dreaming about her future with Black Panther group Letitia Wright.

Like everyone else on the island, Deni is forced to party for Red Cargo, which allows the young, shirtless torpedo to play his songs on the radio twice a day because he loves to do it. hymn of the happy worker propaganda that Deni wrote in tribute. Viewers who know and have tried to unzip the inimitable video of Glover, "This Is America" ​​(reproduced here with an updated choreography composed of black adults looking like zombies and wearing a raw red jumpsuit) will recognize the Irony: "Red Cargo" represents the type of sale. The gesture that the singer had previously criticized, even as his signature, a mixture of hinged scarecrow and an exaggerated menstrual look – challenges to the long tradition of black entertainment in the United States – feel slightly moved on a Caribbean island.

Glover could not have imagined how Jordan Peele would take those same crimson suits and make them diabolical in his movie "Us," and he would not have imagined that "Guava Island" would fall on the same day as the day before. burial of Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle. And yet, these coincidences give a strange resonance to the project, which fits squarely in the spirit of the times, responding to the conflict with a call to love.

With all these speeches about retirement, does this film mark the end of Childish Gambino? How could he, while this complex cascade of Coachella is at the zenith of its success. On the contrary, he is reborn here under another personality and is just as quickly martyred. As an artist, Glover may be totally committed to reinvention, but characters like Childish Gambino and Deni Maroon can not be erased as easily. "Guava Island" perfectly illustrates this fact, not only by describing the challenges that creative personalities face in this culture, but also by showing how their legacies are perpetuated.

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