The Bonkers True Story Behind 'Zola' Viral Twitter Thread Is Now A Movie


A 2015 thread about a weekend trip to Florida gone horribly wrong has now become the first Twitter-based movie—and it’s getting rave reviews

Welp, it’s finally happened. A Twitter thread has been turned into a movie. And the whole story is beyond wild.

Extremely long story extremely short: a Hooters waitress named Zola meets a new friend who immediately invites her to Florida for the weekend to make some extra money stripping. But the trip very quickly goes off the rails, including but not limited to: lying, cheating, jealousy, gunshots, sex trafficking, and general mayhem.

The story goes from funny to bonkers to super dark in a series of 148 tweets, which were posted in 2015 to a stunned audience of hundreds of thousands of riveted social media readers, and then expanded upon in a Rolling Stone feature not long after.

And now the thread has been turned into a feature-length film, scheduled for released to theaters nationwide on June 30. And the trailer looks just as out there as the original story.

But wait—is this going to be all problematic?

Now: let’s pause here and say that I am 100% in support of the safety, rights, and overall respect for sex workers and dancers. And honestly, both the original thread and the fact that it’s being turned into a movie has me a bit on edge about whether the topics would be handled properly (unlike most movies that portray sex work and/or stripping). It’s complicated, right? These narratives are super important to ending the stigma around sex work as well as for raising awareness about the issues surrounding it because of the stigma. But who tells these stories and how the stories are told are vital if we want to get anywhere.

With that being said, it seems like the movie is being handled well, and Zola, the original storyteller, seems supportive of everything that’s taking place with her original material (although I have not seen the movie yet!).

The movie was optioned not long after the tweets. And although James Franco was originally slated to direct, that changed when he was soon after accused of sexual misconduct and taken off the project. Janicza Bravo took his place, allowing a woman of color to tell the story of another woman of color—and landing the movie at Sundance in 2020 where it was nominated for the prestigious Grand Jury Award.

The movie is getting across-the-board rave reviews, from critics who seem almost baffled that Bravo has created such a deranged dark comedy that finds a way to balance the stark reality of sex trafficking and abuse with laugh-out-loud moments of comic relief.

“I wanted to make sure that the thing that would translate from what A’Ziah had written was her voice,” Bravo told Variety. “The biggest challenge was to live up to what everyone had fallen in love with, which was the original source material.”

From what I can tell, the trailer captures the tweets in an amazing way, with scripting, sets, and acting that do justice to Zola’s story.

“You wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense,” begins both the Twitter thread and the movie trailer.

The movie (starring Taylour Paige and Riley Keough) was completed last year, but A24, the movie studio, waited through the pandemic to be able to release the film in theaters, where audiences could take the wild ride together on the big screen.

Where is the real Zola crew now?

And where is everyone now? Well, the unbelievably violent and horrible pimp of the story was indeed arrested as Zola claimed, and he remains in jail on charges of sex trafficking and sexual assault. And Jessica, the fast friend, seems to be settled down with a family and kids now, although she is, according to the Rolling Stone interview, not pleased at all with the retelling of her tale.

Zola is still on Twitter, with a robust following, and recently released an EP of songs. She hopes that the fact that her story keeps getting retold will raise awareness about sex trafficking, in addition to being entertaining. “For whatever reason, people feel like it doesn’t happen, not in their world at least,” she told Rolling Stone. “But it does.”