A film born from a story on Twitter

A film born from a story on Twitter
A film born from a story on Twitter
This week the trailer for Zola, a film based on a Twitter thread that went viral in 2015 and written by Aziah Wells, a then 19-year-old Detroit waitress also known as “Zola.” The thread – that is a concatenation of messages – was made up of 148 tweets and told, with many words and with some images, the incredible events that were triggered when Zola had accepted the invitation of Jessica, a stripper, to go on a trip together in Florida. The plan of the two was to make as much money as possible as strippers, only then things took a completely different turn. It was indeed a story that, as the weekly wrote Time, “It had all the elements of a great script: friendship, love, betrayal, revenge, suspense, action and fun times.”

The thread effectively became a screenplay, and the screenplay a film, which is expected to hit theaters in the summer.

At the beginning of the year Zola it was presented to general praise at the Sundance Film Festival, and the trailer is also attracting positive attention. But the film is talked about above all because it is inspired by that story told on Twitter, which already in November 2015 was partially denied by two articles, one of the Washington Post is one of Rolling Stone. The first to move to transform the story into a film was James Franco, who however abandoned the project which then passed to Janicza Bravo, who like Wells is a woman and is black.

Zola’s thread began like this, with the protagonist asking – attaching some photos of her and Jessica – if anyone would be interested in hearing the story. It would be a long story, he warned, but full of suspense. Zola then said that he met Jessica while she was a bartender, and that the two immediately started dancing, thus exchanging their respective telephone numbers.

In subsequent tweets Zola told how the next day Jessica had invited her to go on a trip to Florida together, a proposal that she accepted. Once they arrived, she and Jessica were then joined by Jarrett, her not particularly shrewd boyfriend, and a Nigerian man who was called “Z” and who was initially introduced as her roommate friend.

Zola later discovered that although she thought they were going to be strippers, Z’s plan – who was actually Jessica’s kind of “pimp” – was to make them prostitutes. And, in fact, again according to Zola’s version, that’s what Jessica then started doing. It was “Z” who forced her, without Jarrett being aware of it: at that point, Zola said that she had tried to take matters into her own hands, triggering a series of adventures, misadventures and incidents that included attempts at fraud and violent and criminal actions. .

History was «a cross between Spring Breakers e Pulp Fiction, however, told by Nicki Minaj ». The definition, which quotes rapper Nicki Minaj in reference to the often foul language used by Zola, is by David Kushner, author of the article Rolling Stone who tried, as much as possible, to verify the facts behind the thread. “Many details seem to come back,” Kushner wrote, but added, “the same thing cannot be said, however, of a couple of key points in the story.” For example, Jessica argued that she never went into prostitution and that it was Zola who proposed going to Florida. Among other things, Zola herself admitted that she had modified some pieces of her story for narrative purposes: for example, those who told of an attempted suicide and the fact that someone shot someone else.

Speaking of the thread, Zola said that before it became popular and famous he had started posting it a couple more times, but removing all tweets as no one seemed to care. According to him, therefore, the additions served to make it a little more interesting.

At the end of his long and detailed article, Kushner wrote that Zola and Jessica had never seen or heard from each other after the events recounted in the thread. Jessica – whose character in the film is called Stefani – said that Zola was “ruining her life.” Zola, on the other hand, claimed that after the success of her thread (which in the meantime is no longer on Twitter) she was considering the possibility of being an author or even just participating in some reality show: “I think I’m funny,” she said.

– Read also: Stories they like, which could become films

A few months after the article by Rolling Stone, in February 2016, it was announced that writers Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts had meanwhile set to work on a script from that thread, and that James Franco would be director and co-producer. However, he had to abandon the role after some women accused him of abuses of power and inappropriate behavior towards them.

Janicza Bravo, chosen for her post as director, said she found herself in front of a “very masculine” screenplay but added that her main work was instead “giving the story a younger, more electric and blacker voice”. Speaking of Wells, Bravo said he found her “smaller and sweeter” than the character in his thread. According to several critics, among the best aspects of Zola there is the way it was rewritten and directed by Bravo, regardless of the story, its genesis and its general reliability. “Although it develops from Twitter’s mediocre pretensions,” Richard Lawson wrote on Vanity Fair «The cinematic world created by Bravo is not fake, and it manages to hit you in the belly. Quite simply, it’s America: often frightening, sometimes sadly funny, and always caught up in its entropy ».

– Read also: 10 things to stream in April

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