Zola, the A24 project whose genesis lies in what will absolutely be remembered as one of the most magnificent threads to ever bless the website known as Twitter dot com, has made its highly anticipated premier at the Sundance Film Festival and duh, people love it.
I say duh, in part, because when you look at all of the ingredients that were brought together to bring this glorious project to life, they would be hard pressed to turn out anything short of sensational. A breakdown of some of the essential ingredients are as follows:
1. An insurmountable Twitter thread from 2015, autobiographically detailing the embellished truth as told by Aziah Wells King, about her trip from Detroit to Tampa, Florida to make money while stripping.
2. James Franco, whose company Rabbit Bandini originally purchased films rights to the story, finally making a wise decision for once in his life and removing himself from the project, which he was initially attached to as a director.
3. Janicza Bravo, the film’s director, and Jeremy O. Harris, a playwright known most notably for the Broadway game-changer Slave Play, joining forces to adapt the first tweet-to-screenplay script to hit the big screen, who added, according to early reviews, layers of electric detail to an already captivating story.
And the list would of course be incomplete without the actors, Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo and Nicholas Braun, who are already getting glowing reviews from the folks who have been so lucky as to have seen the film’s premier.
David Rooney at THR had this to say, “The movie’s driving force, however, is the chemistry between Paige and Keough, right down to their slinky side-by-side grace as they sashay into each new location on vertiginous heels, dressed to slay.” In talking about Bravo and Harris’ touch he said,
Considering the lurid nature of the story — which was embellished to some degree in King’s tweets and has acquired additional layers of what co-writer Harris called “fabulation” for the film — Bravo (Lemon) brings an infectious lightness of touch, veering adroitly between sparky humor and Lynchian weirdness.
An apt sentiment that is evidence of, to quote Jezebel’s own Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, “...what happens when you have a black woman director and a queer black man screenwriter. Black women do not get exploited in a film mfer.” Suddenly, stories Hollywood has been, albeit half-assed, trying and struggling to tell for years, are told with ease and excellence because they are being told by people who have care for, interest in, and appreciation of the subject of their work.
“Bravo, Harris, the “Zola” cast — Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo and Nicholas Braun — and King herself were cheered as they took the stage at the Eccles Theater for the film’s Q&A.” Variety’s Kate Aurthur wrote after the film’s screening, before also noting that A24 has yet to announce a release date for the film.
With any luck the Sundance praise will hopefully help to procure a wide release of the film sooner rather than later. Until then I will continue to follow along on Twitter, where this whole story was brought to life, as reviews continue to roll in.