‘Zola,’ the movie based on a viral Twitter thread, has an incredible first trailer

Menorah Erected for Hanukkah - Wednesday 9 December  -  Trafalgar Square, London

In October 2015, a 150-tweet thread went massively viral on Twitter. The user was @_zolarmoon and she was a Detroit stripper and Hooters waitress who waited on a young woman. The two women got to talking and they became friendly and exchanged numbers. The very next day, Zola’s new friend Jessica called her and invited her on a “ho trip,” a drive down to Tampa, Florida where they would strip in clubs for the weekend. They got to Florida with Jessica’s white boyfriend Jarrett and a man Zola would soon learn was Jessica’s pimp. Chaos ensued. And I mean that. There was ho sh-t, Backpage prostitution, murder, trafficking, mental health issues, a chaotic suicide attempt and all kinds of shenanigans. If you’d like to revisit the viral Twitter thread, it’s all been compiled here. Rolling Stone also spoke to several of the real people (including Jessica and Zola) several weeks after the thread went viral, and you can read that piece here.

Well, as soon as the thread went viral, screenwriters and directors were commenting on how cinematic the story was and how it would be a good movie. THEY MADE THE MOVIE. It’s called Zola. Directed by a Black woman, Janicza Bravo, who has been directing TV shows and film shorts for a while. She was one of the co-screenwriters/adapters too. The film stars Riley Keough as Stefani (the “Jessica” character), Taylour Paige as Zola and Nicholas Braun as Stefani’s boyfriend (Braun is dumb Cousin Greg on Succession). I cannot even describe how amazing this trailer is. The film premiered at Sundance and early audiences friggin’ loved it. I love that we’re now at the point where films are being adapted from viral Twitter threads. The trailer is NSFW for language and some nudity. But it looks GOOD.

As far as I’m concerned, Riley Keough and Taylour are early frontrunners for the 2022 Oscars! MY GOD! What Riley is doing with her voice is amazing. The movie will be released on June 30! Let’s all get vaxxed and go see this in the theater!

Menorah Erected for Hanukkah - Wednesday 9 December  -  Trafalgar Square, London

Photos courtesy of A24.

Related stories

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

44 Responses to “‘Zola,’ the movie based on a viral Twitter thread, has an incredible first trailer”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. harperc says:

    Oh, yeah, this looks awesome. And they filmed this in Tampa! I’m recognizing all the scenes in the background. (And yes, we have a tractor trailer with Jesus Saves painted on it along the highway.)

  2. Tanguerita says:

    It looks really good, but I Riley Keough is a member of Scientology, so won’t be watching it.
    PS. And no, neither would I watch anything with Tom Cruise or Elisabeth Moss in it.

    • oliphant500 says:

      Elisabeth moss is a scientologist?!!! EURGH

      • Tanguerita says:

        Unfortunately yes. I am almost glad I didn’t know back when I was watching “Mad men”, but I can’t rewatch it anymore. The very irony of her playing the main character in “The handmaid’s tale”, you know.

      • SunSunSunshine says:

        I know it’s fallen out of favor, but I very much still try to do the whole “separate the art from the artist” thing. BUT I absolutely cannot with Moss in “Handmaid’d Tale”. The hypocrisy is too much.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      I thought Keough left Scientology while her mom stayed. Did they harass her back in?

      • Dds says:

        I thought they all left Scientology years back.

      • I believe that Tony Ortega said she is back in. I HATE scientology and won’t give them any of my money either, but I feel bad for Riley. She was born into it, it wasn’t a choice, and life with poor Lisa Marie must have been chaos. Also, since she grew up in it they know ALLLLL the family dirt since mom AND grandma (Priscilla) were in it. You know scientology is blackmailing all of them. So she’s the one person I give a break. I hope, like Beck, she can get herself out of it. Poor girl.

  3. Lemons says:

    I can’t wait for this movie. The trailer has sold it for me with the addition of Colman Domingo who is divine.

  4. Lively says:

    I can’t wait to watch this movie

  5. Levans says:

    That Twitter thread is still epic! Can’t wait for the movie

  6. Lexilla says:

    I somehow missed this when it went viral and read the thread last night. Omg. Epic. I love that it became a movie. Good for Zola.

    • Myra says:

      I missed it too. It’s the most riveting thing I’ve read all year. She tells a good story too. Like I actually pictured every scene in my mind.

  7. Case says:

    Oh wow, I saw this trailer yesterday but didn’t know the backstory. This is so interesting! A24 puts out great stuff.

    Side note, I didn’t realize Riley Keough was that great of an actress? She looks amazing in this. Colman Domingo is always amazing so I’m excited to see him in it too.

  8. MellyMel says:

    Been waiting for this! I literally stopped what I was doing that day the thread was uploaded to Twitter. I definitely can’ t wait to get vaccinated and be able to see this in a theater this summer. And that Jesus Saves trailer is so Florida lol.

  9. GrnieWnie says:

    I swear Riley took her inspo from that little white girl from Dr Phil…Danielle something

    • Noki says:

      Also another one called Woah Vicky. You will be shocked how many young little white girls talk like that.

      • SunSunSunshine says:

        Woah Vicky! Thank you, it was driving me crazy trying to figure out who she was reminding me of.

  10. Anna says:

    The trailer looks wild and I think overall this is a fantastic idea as is the story of how it got made. My only thing is that I am at a point where I can’t watch any more movies of Black people being harmed by white people directly or by their actions. I just can’t do it. tv, film, anything. Just can’t anymore. I know there’s probably more to the story but even in the trailer, you see how Riley’s character completely runs the show and gets this BW into a heap of trouble that will be much more difficult to get out of because she is a Black woman. I just can’t watch harm to Black folks anymore at the hands of white people. Not a condescending word, not BW being used as props for white characters, not anything. Pardon the rant but I’ve hit a wall as a BW amidst pandemic and amidst all of the white supremacist hatred. Thinking of Marsai Martin and how she does not book any projects like that. Kudos to her.

    • Lanagen says:

      In real life Zola and Jess were in the con together at the behest of a black pimp.

      • Anna says:

        In almost every scene of the trailer, it seems clear that Jessica is pushing Zola and also the way Jessica acts, the white privilege is out of control. She can do what she wants, cause any kind of trouble, drag the BW into it. I just found it so anxiety-producing to watch even a clip. Yes, Zola has personal agency, but this kind of thing happens all the time. White people can do virtually anything they want without consequence.

      • Realistic says:

        Anna read the full story, the bad guy in this story is the pimp.

    • BK says:

      you should probably read the story before making this about race. Everyone in it is crazy but the bad guy here is the African pimp who murdered a whole bunch of people.

  11. Lanagen says:

    This is literally a story about sex trafficking and here it is made to look like a comedy.

    That is not ok.

    • Lemon says:

      Yeah! The twitter thread is horrible! The woman is trafficked, raped, abducted and beaten. There’s so much violence and abuse. No thank you.

      • Anna says:

        Yes, and on top of this, we have an epidemic of Black women and girls going missing in this country, thousands, almost six figure per year, and no one talks about it except A Long Walk Home or the few orgs who are trying to bring light and justice and to find out what happens. So to glorify this…And to see it enacted/catalyzed by a white woman who has all the privileges afforded to whiteness in this country? I just can’t watch it.

      • Midge says:

        Yes, but it’s told from the victim’s POV, which is important.

      • Realistic says:

        Anna so you think Zola was trafficked but not Jessica? Again you need to read the whole story bc you might have a different view. And Zola wasnt raped or beaten according to her story however Jessica was beaten up by the pimp.

    • Sandii says:

      I was also horrified when I read the Twitter story. I can understand that Zola tried to make it “funny” for her own sanity…. But overall a super violent and sad story.

  12. Runaway says:

    I remember hearing about this thread when it came out but never read it. I just read the rollingstone article and just WOW. Epic. The movie should be amazing, I’ll definitely be watching it.

  13. Chanteloup says:

    OMG no, just no. Reading the twitter thread alone was anxiety-inducing enough, being in a theater for 2 hrs watching this abuse, sex trafficking and murder go down – what with people laughing? – is my worst nightmare Couldn’t even say to myself this is all made up Uggh so much no for me

  14. Watson says:

    This Twitter thread was one of my fave things in 2015!! I cannot wait for this movie. It’s chaos personified.

  15. manda says:

    I’m so out of the loop. Earlier today on twitter, I saw someone mention this, and thought to myself, “A movie about emile zola? huh.” That sounds boring but this sounds very interesting! But also, kind of scary? I guess it’s good to know that the women are still living so I guess they made it. The trailer stressed me out. I am seriously just learning about all this right now

  16. DeadDruidsDaughters says:

    It’s not funny or entertaining, to me, to watch violence, rape and trafficked women.

  17. Elo says:

    This looks amazing. It’s the first movie I’ve been truly excited to see in a while.

  18. ReginaGeorge says:

    “Lets make a movie about a real life sexual violence and trafficking… but make it comedy!”

    Umm, how ’bout no? And knowing that James Franco was initially involved in this project before he got shamed into hiding is enough for me to give this movie a pass.

    • mindy_dopple says:

      I can see that. However, I’m all for the girl who wrote the Twitter thread getting a huge payday for her story. It’s real life, she herself had to laugh at the insanity and how messed up her situation was, and I can understand THAT. She survived and is a survivor!

  19. Gab says:

    WOULD RETURN TO A THEATER FOR THIS!!! Vaxxed of course!

  20. Watson says:

    I realize why so many people hate this movie already but there is much to love about the story itself. Things that are unusual about this story based on real life events: a black female lead is the protagonist, in a story about a lot of illegal activity that she was suckered into. It wasn’t told in a woe is me, i need to be saved way. There is no condemnation about stripping or even sex work other than “I’m not going to do this”. It was told like male storylines normally are when it comes to violence. In the end, she saved her damn self!!! No white guy, no cop, none of the usual plot devices saved her. So different!!

  21. tealily says:

    Ah! I should reread that Twitter thread. So glad to hear this is happening, that story was epic!

  22. Shannon says:

    Oh yeah! I cannot wait.

  23. Veronica S. says:

    I remember reading that thread and thinking it was hilarious, though also thinking to myself that they both sounded extremely annoying and frankly sort of dumb (or at least bizarrely naive for their profession). Prime dramedy recipe right there, that’s for sure.