Though the 2020 edition of the Sundance Film Festival and the pre-pandemic world it took place in now feel impossibly remote, the first trailer for its buzzy US Dramatic Competition premiere title Zola is now here to refresh our memories in vivid fashion. The long-awaited look at Janicza Bravo’s provocative thriller has arrived, awash in bullets and fluttering dollar bills – it’s going to be a hot summer.
The film adapts a series of 148 tweets threaded in 2015 by one Aziah Wells (portrayed in the film by Taylour Paige), using her @zolarmoon handle to recount the tale of a calamitous road trip she once took with a fellow stripper the film names Stefani (Riley Keough, doing Bhad Bhabie voice). They set out from Detroit to Florida with Stefani’s boyfriend (Nicholas Braun, better known as Succession’s Cousin Greg) and her volatile pimp X (Colman Domingo) in tow.
The plan is to make as much money as possible, but the ‘how’ gradually changes from stripping to something more lucrative and less legal. All hell breaks loose, and the formal makeup of the film follows suit, as the gorgeous 35mm photography is punctuated by digital inserts, selfies, and other signifiers of the mid-’10s period in which the film is set.
In her report from Sundance an eternity ago, Hannah Woodhead had plenty of positive things to say about the polarizing eyebrow-raiser: ““There’s a lot to admire about Zola all the same – it’s a frank and extremely funny account of one wild weekend, approaching sex trafficking in a bold new way as well as examining the racial tension between Zola and Stefani.—
As the American public returns to cinemas over the coming months, movies as brash and exhilarating as this one will be a welcome balm to audiences sore for the immersive intensity that only hits in the theatrical environment. Though it may be steeped in the imagery of the internet, A24 was right to hold the film until it could be seen on the big screen.
Zola comes to cinemas in the US on 30 June. A release date for the UK has yet to be set.
Published 31 Mar 2021
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