“Zola” is based on the infamous Twitter thread posted by A’Ziah Wells King. Co-written and directed by Janicza Bravo, the film follows a Detroit waitress named Zola (Taylour Paige) who strikes up a new friendship with a customer, Stefani (Riley Keough), who convinces her to join a weekend of dancing and partying in Florida. What at first seems like a glamorous trip full of “hoeism” rapidly transforms into a 48-hour journey involving a nameless pimp, an idiot boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures.
“Zola” made its worldwide premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. Described as “an irreverent, sensibility-offending trip for audiences” by Variety’s Peter Debruge, the film premiered to laughter and applause at the festival. At the premiere, Bravo said she became “immediately obsessed” with the Twitter thread that was sent in a group text chain she’s in with her Los Angeles girlfriends.
“You’re like, this is not funny on paper,” Bravo said. “Like it’s not funny. But [King] managed to extrapolate all of this humor and tension and stress and anxiety and it just like got me. … It was electric. I could feel the blood coursing through my veins and I wanted it and I thought that, like, only a Black girl could’ve experienced that and processed it and exorcised it. In that way, only a person who is innately adept at engaging with their trauma is able to take a step away from it, retell the story and take a hold of their narrative.”
In addition to Paige and Keough, the film also stars Nelcie Souffrant, Nasir Rahim, Amelia Rose Monteagudo, Ari’el Stachel, Colman Domingo, Nick Braun, Jason Mitchell, TS Madison and Tommy Foxhill.
Watch the trailer below.