Donald Glover has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Earlier this week, the Emmy-winning Atlanta creator and musician unveiled a new project at Coachella. Guava Island, the secret film he’d snuck off to Cuba to film with Rihanna and the frequent Atlanta director Hiro Murai last year, debuted Thursday evening at the music festival as a lead-in to Glover’s headlining performance (as his musical alter ego, Childish Gambino). On Saturday, the film began streaming on Amazon, where viewers well outside the funky haze of Coachella can catch it in front of the platform’s paywall until Saturday evening, when it’ll become exclusive to Prime subscribers.
The massive rollout, which was largely kept under wraps prior to this week, is a testament to the influence Glover’s built as a multi-hyphenate entertainer, and as an artistic mind. Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, told Vanity Fair she knew she wanted to commit the streaming giant’s funds to the project after watching a four-and-a-half minute sizzle reel. The teaser arrived via a onetime viewing link that expired 30 minutes after Salke received it, but “I would have committed to Donald sight unseen,” she said of the decision. “I knew whatever he wanted to amplify would have relevance and be entertaining. He has that ability to create cultural moments and spread a message that’s interesting.”
Though different in tone, Guava Island does indeed demand the kind of attention that Glover’s previous projects have. It’s a slim production, with a runtime of 54 minutes. But within the short snapshot, Glover and Murai assemble a magnetic cast who are, quite simply, a joy to watch. The film follows Deni Maroon (Glover), a charming and goofy musician with strong anti-capitalist leanings who wants to host a festival for the hardworking people of Guava. As his girlfriend, Kofi Novia, Rihanna is delightfully unimpressed with Deni’s songs and soapbox alike. Letitia Wright of Black Panther plays Yara Love, Kofi’s friend, though she’s not on-screen nearly enough. The three gallivant around a beautifully shot Havana, with bright clothing and even sunnier dispositions.