They say that Hollywood is running out of ideas, but now that social media exposes us to some of the wildest stories you’ve ever heard, it’s hard to believe that there would be any shortage of entertainment in the digital age. A viral thread of tweets from 2015 is a testament to that, where a woman named Zola told the story of how she was essentially trafficked by a sex worker named Jessica from Detroit to Florida for a wild two-day weekend filled with sex, drugs, and murder.
For those of you who may not remember or who were not exposed to the saga that was the Zola story when it went viral in October 2015, we’ll give you a quick TLDR (you can read the full 100+ Tweet thread here), though there is no way that we could sum it up as eloquently as miss Zolarmoon herself did on that fateful October day.
“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense,” tweeted a since deleted account by the name of @_zolarmoon back in October 2015. The story, about a girl named Zola who worked in a Detroit Hooters and was invited by a guest in her restaurant, named Jessica, to come and dance in a strip club in Florida for the weekend.
The story quickly takes a turn when Zola realizes that Jessica is a prostitute (and a cheap one, at that) and that the two men that went with them are actually her pimp and her boyfriend (who, we should add, is suicidal—more on that later). Throughout the story Zola takes a backseat and serves as more of a spectator in Jessica’s messy weekend in Florida, starting with the first night where Jessica turns tricks in a cheap hotel for a few hundred dollars at a time.
Eventually the two meet up with Jessica’s boyfriend Jarrett and he realizes that Jessica is selling herself while she says she’s dancing in a strip club. Distraught, Jarrett uploads screenshots of Jessica’s backdoor prostitution ad onto her Facebook so that her mother can see what she’s really doing. Later, after a whole lot more drama, Jarrett manages to get ahold of a gun and threatens to kill himself (this is still all over the course of a day or so, mind you).
If you thought the story would calm down from there you’re wrong. It escalates further with guns and kidnapping and even more prostitution, and eventually ends up in Las Vegas where Jessica and her pimp (who simply goes by Z in the story) are arrested for prostitution. As it turns out, Z was wanted for a handful of crimes throughout the United States that include anything from Kidnapping and sex trafficking to murder.
If this sounds like the perfect recipe for an A24 film you’re right, because the company is premiering Zola, the story based off of Zola’s viral tweets, at Sundance Film Festival next month. But the path that the film took to get to the big screen is nearly as interesting and full of drama as the actual story is.
After Zola’s original thread went viral back in 2015 it quickly caught the attention of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Figures like Shonda Rhimes and James Franco quickly jumped on the opportunity to bring the story to life even further, but eventually were replaced by Janzica Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris, who directed and co-wrote the film, respectively.
Zola will have its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January. The film stars Taylor Paige (Ballers) and Riley Keough (The Lodge), and will be distributed by A24 (Midsommar, Lady Bird). If you think I will not be clawing my way to the front row of that premiere, you are gravely wrong.