On October 27, 2015, Aziah ‘Zola’ Wells opened a Twitter thread with the infamous words “y’all wanna hear a story?”
148 tweets and five years later, the epic saga of her nightmare road-trip to Florida is coming to our screens. On Thursday 6 August, distribution company A24 released the first teaser trailer for the film, which was one of the most talked about premieres of Sundance Film Festival. The 42-second trailer pays homage to the original thread with a voice-over quoting the opening tweet, and promises that the film is “Coming This… Coming Next… Coming Soon”.
The viral thread from 2015 told the story of Zola’s fateful road-trip from Detroit to Florida with fellow sex worker and new friend, Jessica (Stefani, in the film). According to the tweets, Zola met Jessica while working as a waitress and they exchanged numbers. The next day, she received a message asking if she wanted to travel to Florida and make money dancing in clubs. Zola agreed, and the resulting trip was a wild ride of prostitution, pimps and murder. In the words of Zola herself, her story was “kind of long, but full of suspense”.
Following the thread’s publication, the internet picked up on the chaotic narrative and Zola’s entertaining story-telling. Under ‘#TheStory’, numerous celebrities, including Solange Knowles, Missy Elliott and Ava DuVernay expressed their strong reactions to the tale. Although Zola later admitted that some details were exaggerated, the ‘real story’ was verified in a subsequent interview with Rolling Stone, which further raised the profile of the thread.
The film was originally set to be directed by James Franco, but he was replaced due to sexual misconduct allegations in June 2018. Following this, Janicza Bravo, best known for the 2017 comedy-drama film Lemon and her work on the television series Atlanta, took over the project. The film stars Taylour Paige in the role of Zola and Riley Keough as Stefani, and features a score by Mica Levi. Critics have reacted positively to the script, performances, and originality of its premise.
While a 2020 release was planned for the film, the exact date is yet to be announced due to the disruption caused by COVID-19.
Words by Lucy Palmer
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